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Immunity to Change: How To Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization 



"...brilliant insights into the mysteries of the change process at the heart of personal and organizational success... Any leader seriously interested in developing new strengths in others - and in oneself - needs to read this book." —Daniel Goleman, author, Emotional Intelligence By Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey A recent study showed that when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don't change their habits, only one in seven will be able to follow through successfully. Clearly, desire and motivation aren't enough: even when it's literally a matter of life and death, the ability to change remains maddeningly elusive. Given that the status quo is so powerful, how can we create the changes we need in our selves and in our organizations? In Immunity to Change, authors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey show how our individual habits and mindsets— along with the collective norms and beliefs in our organizations—combine to create an overwhelming immunity to change. The authors go on to show us what we can do to overcome these forces. Working with senior leaders and their teams, for extended periods of time, in business, government, and education, they present their lessons learned. These "lessons" amount to nothing less than a radical recasting, conceptually and practically, of the work of improving performance. Readers frustrated or disappointed with their current change efforts (or their clients'), who want guidance in knowing what to do to turn things around, will find very practical "how to" advice here, illustrated through a variety of successful real-life, individual and team improvement efforts. This powerful and practical book, filled with hands-on diagnostics and compelling case studies, delivers the tools you need to overcome the forces of inertia and transform your life and your work.


How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation


Why is the gap so great between our hopes, our intentions, even our decisions--and what we are actually able to bring about? Even when we are able to make important changes--in our own lives or the groups we lead at work--why are the changes so frequently short--lived and soon we are back to business as usual? What can we do to transform this troubling reality? In this intensely practical book, Harvard psychologists Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey take us on a carefully guided journey designed to help us answer these very questions. And not just generally, or in the abstract. They help each of us arrive at our own particular answers that can solve the puzzling gap between what we intend and what we are able to accomplish. You'll want to read this book with pen in hand. The authors invite you in, not as an observer but as an active participant-to help you make powerful, lasting change in your life and the lives of those you seek to help or lead.




Helping Leaders Find, and Fix, Their Flaws [NYTimes], 17 Mar 2012


The Real Reason People Won't Change

It's a psychological dynamic called a "competing commitment," and until managers understand how it works and the ways to overcome it, they can't do a thing about change-resistant employees.

By Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

Every manager is familiar with the employee who just won't change. Sometimes it's easy to see why-the employee fears a shift in power, the need to learn new skills, the stress of having to join a new team. In other cases, such resistance is far more puzzling. An employee has the skills and smarts to make a change with ease, has shown a deep commitment to the company, and genuinely supports the change-yet, inexplicably, he does nothing.

What's going on? As organizational psychologists, we have seen this dynamic literally hundreds of times, and our research and analysis have recently led us to a surprising yet deceptively simply conclusion. Resistance to change does not reflect opposition, nor is it merely a result of inertia. Instead, even as they hold a sincere commitment to change, many people are-unwittingly-applying productive energy toward a hidden competing commitment. The resulting dynamic equilibrium stalls the effort in what looks like resistance but is in fact a kind of personal immunity to change.

When you, as a manager, uncover an employee's competing commitment, behavior that has seemed irrational and ineffective suddenly becomes stunningly sensible and masterful-but unfortunately, on behalf of a goal that conflicts with what you and even the employee are trying to achieve. You find out that the project leader who's dragging his feet has an unrecognized competing commitment to avoid the even tougher assignment-one he fears he can't handle-that might come his way if he delivers too successfully on the task at hand. Or you'll find that the person who won't collaborate despite a passionate and sincere commitment to teamwork is equally dedicated to avoiding the conflict that naturally attends any ambitious team activity. In these pages, we'll look at competing commitments in detail and take you through a process to help your employees overcome their immunity to change…

…Based on the past 15 years of working with hundreds of managers in a variety of companies and organizations, we've developed a three-stage process to help them figure out what's getting in the way of change. First, managers guide employees through a set of questions designed to uncover their competing commitments. Next, employees examine their commitments to determine the underlying assumptions at their core. And finally, employees start the process of changing their behavior. 


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