How to build workplace symmetry and win

On Oct. 12, 2000, the USS Cole was attacked while refueling in Yemen’s Aden Harbor. Seventeen American sailors were killed and 39 more were injured. It was the deadliest attack against a US naval vessel in over a decade. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attack.

Though the horrors of 9/11 were still 11 months away, the US was now in an asymmetrical war. The new kind of struggle, which pits nations or groups with disparate military capabilities and strategies against each other and features such irregular tactics as counterinsurgency and terrorism, would force the Pentagon to rewrite its rules of engagement after decades of following a playbook driven by World War II and the Cold War.

(Though the Vietnam War had changed the rules of engagement decades earlier, the US had not truly adapted. When it led the attack against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in Operation Desert Storm, it was all fire and brimstone. In contrast, the 2000s struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan featured a full array of stealth and counterinsurgency techniques.)

Though the battlefield is far from the ideal workplace metaphor, the sad truth is that many employees come to work each day feeling embattled.