Framework 88 Immunity to Change (closing the gap)


Immunity to change refers to the need to change mindsets and behaviours plus feelings, anxieties, motivation, etc that are obstacles to change. How to unlock the full potential of individuals to handle change is one of the aims of this framework:
"...Hidden dynamic that actively and brilliantly prevents us from changing because of its devotion to preserving our existing way of making meaning..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Need to understand what people really want and what will they do to keep from getting it?

Generally we like to preserve the status quo, ie the brain can feel threatened by anything new or different.

An analogy is driving a car by having 1 foot on the accelerator (a genuine commitment and desire for change) and the other foot on the brake (a strong desire to maintain the status quo)!!

The focus of this framework is to understand the gap between expectations and what actually happens and identify
"...strategies to bridge the gap between the intent to change and the actions taken to make it happen. Understand how immunity mapping, which exposes competing commitments and assumption, can unlock the ability to take on new behaviours that are better aligned with effective leadership..."
Brian Fredrickson, 2017

Immunity to change can happen at all levels: individuals, groups, teams, units, divisions, organisations, etc.

This framework aims to identify
"...the hidden role of emotions in meeting the challenge of change, the need for us to find a way to bring what we had intended to think of as private experience into the public realm of work..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

NB Most organisations try to suppress all emotions. We need to find a way of reversing this dynamic of suppressing emotion. This involves
"...Reconceiving the challenges to change, the prospect of increasingly sophisticated levels of mental complexity, and the continuous need to manage anxiety..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

In other words, it is about sorting yourself out first before the team, unit, organisation, etc.


It is suggested that the gap is more important as a challenge than the lack of willingness or keenness for the changes.

It uncovers the hidden motivations and beliefs that prevent us from making the very changes we know we should and want to make. It is asking people to change their behaviours and attitudes.

It will identify new insights and then you need to have the ability to act upon them.

Need to move from diagnosing immunities to overcoming them.

This framework tries to go beyond the favoured, superficial explanations of why change is so difficult, eg lack of urgency, inadequate incentives, uncertainty, etc

The 3 dimensions to this framework

i) change-prevention system (thwarting challenging aspirations)

ii) feeling system (managing anxiety)

iii) knowing system (organising reality)

Linked with these are the 3 basic challenges

i) the disjunction between our increased understanding of the need to change and our lack of understanding as to what prevents it

ii) considerable sums of resources (like time and money) are spent by organisations to improve people's capabilities (there is a need to focus on someone's strengths and hiring around their weaknesses, rather than wasting resources on training to improve their weaknesses)

iii) mental development can continue post-adolescence, ie growth of mental complexity in adulthood. Recent research has challenged the traditional view that mental development peaks at a similar time as physical development, ie early 20s. It was thought that as people became older and wiser; it was a consequence of experience, ie
"...How to get more out of the same mental equipment rather than any qualitative answers or upgrades to the equipment itself..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Research now demonstrates

- neural plasticity and the capacity of brains to keep adapting over our lifetime
- considerable variation of mental ability within any age
- development is not continuous, ie there are periods of stability and periods of change. When a new level or plateau is reached, there is a period of stability
- the interval between levels gets longer and longer as you age
- fewer and fewer people reach the higher levels.
"...What do these different levels of mental complexity in adulthood actually look like? Can we say something about what a more complex level can see or do that a less complex level cannot?......mental complexity and its evolution is not about how smart you are in the ordinary sense of the word. It is not about how high your IQ is. It's not about developing more and more abstract, abstruse apprehension of the world..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Adult Mental Complexity (3 levels or plateaus; with each successive level being higher than the preceding one; a higher level outperforms a lower level)

i) socialised mind (we are like a passenger)
"... - we are shaped by definition and expectations of a personal environment
     - our self coheres by its alignment with, and loyalty to, that with which it identifies
     - this can express itself primarily in our relationships with people, with schools of thoughts (our ideas and beliefs) or both..."

Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Some characteristics at this level:

- good team players

- faithful followers who seek direction, ie follow conscientiously the directions and signals of their boss

- aligning, ie loyal to the organisation

- reliant, ie do what is required of them, like 'pull their weight'

NB This was adequate in the manufacturing society but is insufficient in the information era with the transition from physical labour to mind work plus globalisation trends
"...characterised by rapid change, accelerating scientific and technological breakthroughs, and the unprecedented level of competitiveness..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

This has created a demand for higher levels of education and training. However, it has created psychological issues as it requires
"...greater capacity for innovation, self-management, personal responsibility and is asked for at every level of the business enterprise, from senior management to first-line supervisors and even to entry-level personnel..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

  ii) self-authoring mind (we are like a driver in a familiar car)
"... - we are able to step back enough from the social environment to generate an internal 'seat of judgement' or personal authority that evaluates and makes choices about external expectations

     - our 'self' coheres by its alignment with its own belief system/ideology/personal code, by its ability to self-direct, take stands, set limits, and create and regulate its boundaries on behalf of its own voice..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Some characteristics at this level involves

- agenda-driving

- leaders learn to lead

- own compass/own frame

- problem-solving

- independent, etc

In addition to the unprecedented higher levels of knowledge and skill, it requires high levels of independence, self-reliance, self-trust, capacity to exercise initiative, etc.

iii) self-transforming mind (we are like a driver in a new car)

"...- we can step back from and reflect on the limits of our own ideology or personal authority; see that any one system or self-organisation is in some way partial or incomplete; be friendlier toward contradiction and opposites; seek to hold on to multiple systems rather than projecting all but one into the other
     - our self coheres through the ability not to confuse internal inconsistencies with wholeness or completeness, and through its alignment with the dialectic rather than either pole...
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Some characteristics at this level:

- meta-leader

- leader learns to learn

- multi-frame, holds contradictions

- problem-finding

- interdependent, etc

NB The 3 levels help us make sense of the world, and we operated within it in profoundly different ways.

An example is information flows (this involves understanding how does information flows, or does it not flow, flow through an organisation, ie what people send, to whom they send it, how they receive or attend to what flows to them, etc. How does this impact individual behaviour?)

i) socialised mind (tend to send what others want to hear, especially senior management, eg obedience-to-authority; aligning with important others; tryong to second-guess what the information means, eg signal-to-noise detector; group-think dominates - this is not necessary a cultural phenomena; tend to be a passenger, not drivers)

ii) self-authoring mind (tends to send to others what they need to know to further the agenda or intended outcome; send a direction, an agenda, a stance, a strategy, analysis, etc as background to the communication; encourages people to be drivers, not passengers; able to distinguish important from urgent, ie able to prioritise; not necessarily flexible enough to handle a changing, complex situation

iii) self-transforming mind (understands own unconscious bias or filters, ie not a prisoner of their filters; accepts and evaluates alternative points of view, especially to handle a rapidly changing, complex world; seeking and receptive to different and new information to enhance, refine, or modify original plans, designs, etc; understand the impact of their behaviours as role models; flexible enough to handle changing, complex situations; willing to confront people directly, rather than talking behind their back; do not let ego get in the way of needed conversations; able to work on own personal-learning agenda including being vulnerable; like drivers of a new car). All this leads to the organisation being better able to deliver on its aspirations.

NB Need to consider whether you bring about change by first changing the mindset (the preference of insight-orientated therapists) or you start with behaviours and letting the mindsets follow after (preference of behaviourists). Or alternatively
"...the mindset is the mother of behaviour...... mindsets can change as a result of specific behaviours undertaken with specific goals - namely, behaviours that give you information (both cognitive and affective) about the mindset - in short, the behaviours of a self-reflective learner rather than a social engineer..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

There are 7 critical attributes in this framework, ie

i) life-long learning, eg on-going growth and development throughout your adult life (move away from transmissional framework (expert teaching non-expert, like student; focus on process/system changes rather than personal) to a transformational one (more holistic approach where everyone is learning from everyone else; both people and systems can be transformed)

ii) understand the difference between technical and adaptive learning agendas (don't use technical means to solve adaptive challenges, ie people managers need to understand their behaviours, beliefs, feelings, emotions, etc;  social/personal outcome-driven rather than course  input-driven; learning will move from classroom to work teams, ie

Traditional learning (course input-driven, eg technical & analytical)  New Learning (social/personal outcome-driven)
1. Learning in artificial groups (classes) plus learning in real-life work groups
2. 'Time out' apart from workflow plus infusing learning within workflow
3. Time-limited plus time-elastic
4. Indirect learner accountability plus direct learner accountability
5. Analytical/technical information plus transformational/adaptive
6. Seeking transfer of learning plus starting at transfer
7. servicing team-leaders plus co-teaching with team leaders
8. tight boundary between learning personnel & line personnel plus loose boundaries/adjunct faculty
9. Loose connections to overall corporate strategy plus tight connections to strategy
10. In prep for an initiative plus an support during a initiative
  (source: Robert Kegan et al, 2009)


NB Learning will switch from operational to learning mode, eg personal learning experiments (including debriefings). Think of it as remaking the aeroplane as you are flying it!!!!

" end of this continuum workplace sees organised learning as something it goes on primarily away from the job; at the other end, organised learning is infused into the meat and muscle of the way work gets done on the job each week..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009)

iii) recognise and cultivate individual's intrinsic motivation to grow (need to continuously improve in developing (including redesigning) human capability as well as operations and systems; development of talent needs to be a top priority and done continuously on-the-job rather than divorced from the job, ie
"...there is no more perfect marriage of interests - between the needs of an organisation and the needs of its individual members - tha n the ongoing growth of people at work..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

" 'benefit' to an organisation provides its employees a better investment than one that meets our deepest human hunger, to experience the continuing unfolding of our capacities to see more deeply (inwardly and outwardly) and to act more effectively and with greater range..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009)

iv) change in mindset takes time and goes at an uneven pace (about human cultivation, not human engineering, ie
"...evolution of mental complexity, of the gradual process of mental differentiation and reintegration, of looking at a way of making meaning we use to only look through, of shifting subject to object..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

This takes time and requires patience; its pace will be uneven, ie 'fits and starts')

v) it involves thinking (head) and feelings (heart) (cannot exclude emotional life of the workplace like feelings, ie
"...leaders can feel at a loss for how to engage powerful dimension in ongoing, constructive, productive and appropriate ways. The inclination either to ignore it and hope that it takes care of itself, or relegated to a cordoned off space ('HR or executive coaching will take care of that') or time ('we'll have an off-site and bring in someone who is good at this')..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

It is futile to try to divorce the public and private lives of staff, ie staff are human beings who bring their humanity to work every day

vi) both change in mindset and behaviour are pivotal; just one is not enough (inside-orientated (inside changes) v. behavioural modification (behavioural changes); it is a combination of the 2 that is required, ie
"...we must take up an activity technically known as praxis - practice is specially designed to explore the possibility of altering our personal and organisational theories (the theory is that reside in our big assumptions)......the people we work with transformed their talent through behaviour change is designed to bring about mindset change and through mindset change designed to bring about the lasting behavioural changes that enable them to reach their goals..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

Need to engage in focussed, structured, persistent and active reflection, ie time to think.

vii) to handle the inherent risk in changing your mind, need to provide a safety net (
"...This process is a factory for converting every unfulfilled ambition into a good problem for transformational learning. But if you import only the 'challenge' without tending to the anxieties it are going to be disappointed with the results..."

Robert Kegan et al, 2009

There are risks involved, as people are going into areas that will make them feel very vulnerable, ie when exposing their weaknesses and providing privileged information, they need a safe, non-threatening environment to allow this to happen).

NB It is a continuum.

Implementation techniques (supporting the framework)

Part of this process involves using implementation techniques (see elsewhere in KB) like

- Immunity Mapping (involves an understanding of what is behind your thinking and feeling that inhibits maximising performance)

- Overturning-immunity surveys (a confidential questionnaire is sent to selected stakeholders. This happens on 2 occasions, eg at the start to provide a baseline and with a follow-up several months later to evaluate the progress towards the improvement goal(s). Additionally, the first survey provides a reality check on whether you have identified the most suitable goal for yourself; the second survey also provides a safeguard against self-deception. Both questionnaires provide valuable feedback)

- Psychometric testing (eg Myers Briggs type indicator is about understanding personalities by exploring preferences and behaviours like introvert or extrovert, judging or perceiving, thinking or feeling, sensing or intuition, etc)

- 360 degree feedback (this involves getting feedback on individuals' performances from important stakeholders linked with your business.) 

- Discussability of issues (this will allow previously undiscussable issues to become discussable)

- Ladder of inference (it shows how different people can interpret the same situation very differently and need to discuss it)

- Authentic self-reflection (learning from experience, eg what went right, what needs improving, etc)

- Analysing the way we work (catagorising work:

    i) value adding (work that increases the value of the product or service)

    ii) necessary (backs up value-adding work and needed to keep the organisation operating)

    iii) unnecessary work (rework - correcting mistakes, etc)

    iv) unnecessary work (work that does not add value and is not necessary)

    v) not working and being paid (this can be authorised like holidays or unauthorised like waiting time, etc)

NB the aim is to increase element i) and decrease the other elements.

- Left hand-column (understanding the thoughts and feelings behind the words and actions)

- Worry box (where you list your greatest fears)

- Subject-Object Relationship (we look at things through our filters; the amount of control we have of our filters in the 3 minds, eg socialised mind, self-authoring mind and self-transforming mind.)

Additional general comments relevant to this framework

- aim for
"...trying to build a set of values, a set of principles, around how you do work, some core conceptual frames for the work you do and the values to support them..."

 Robert Kegan et al, 2009

- don't rush too quickly to solutions

- need to spend more time understanding what is really going on

- move away from individualistic orientation in leadership development to group focus

- move to a greater depth of perception

- immunity-to-change matrix (need to use the right language)

- some personal mindsets that need to change include

    a) things must be done my way

    b) must have a direct impact on me

    c) to feel the pride of ownership, ie it has my stamp on things

    d) reinforce my superior problem-solving expertise, ie the one who knows best and who is in complete control.

- there can be a mismatch between people's capacity and what is required to meet the demands of the world, so there is a need to develop capacity of people and organisations to be better able to handle the ever-changing, complex demands of the world.

- handling emotional side
"...leaders of organisations......were most interested in the problem of how to effectively and appropriately engage the emotional life of the organisation so that it could more successfully deliver on its purpose..."
 Robert Kegan et al, 2009

- the 3 premises of overcoming immunity

    i) it does not require the elimination of all anxiety-management systems (the challenge is to build a better and more suitable immune system)

    ii) change does not cause anxiety (it is a feeling that we are powerless and defenceless in the challenges of change that cause anxiety)

    iii) building a suitable anxiety-management system

- mirror test
"...we have met the enemy and he is us..."
Pogo's Maxim as quoted by Robert Kegan et al, 2009

This is similar to the mirror test, ie what is wrong with this organisation, look in the mirror!!!!!

- too much focus on wrong areas

"...most organisations......spend around 80% of their time on politics and administration and around 20% time on practice..."
Robert Kegan et al, 2009

This causes much dysfunctionality as staff are playing office politics rather than serving the organisational needs.

The 80% involves activities like

    a) silos who keep information to themselves

    b) little clusters and cliques who are pushing their own agendas

Imagine what would happen you could reverse the percentages, ie 80% on practice, 20% on politics and administration!!!!!

- issues like competition amongst the staff can create constant anxiety around the possibility of making mistakes and, thus being publicly 'named and shamed'. 

- authentic self-reflection is an important part of the process

- need to make people part of the solution rather than just a problem


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