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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An adaptive approach to sustainable improvement of personal and organizational performance, 3 Mar 2009
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good) (Hardcover)
There are many reasons why it is so difficult to overcome what James O'Toole aptly describes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." In my opinion, one of the most formidable barriers frequently involves a paradox: Whatever enabled an organization to prosper has become the primary cause of its current problems. To paraphrase Marshall Goldsmith, "whatever got you here may well prevent you from getting there." No one defends failure (except as a source of potentially valuable knowledge) but many (if not most) people will vigorously defend the status quo because "it isn't broken," they prefer a "known devil" to an "unknown devil," or because they have developed what Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey describe as an "immunity to change." In was in an earlier book of theirs, How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work (2001), that they introduced what they describe as "a deceptively simple process - distilled and refined over many years - by which people can uncover the hidden motivations and beliefs that prevent them from making the very changes they know they should make and very much want to make" whatever the given goal may be. They have developed what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton characterize as a "knowing-doing gap."

As with so many outstanding business books, this one focuses on three critically important problems that need to be solved: First, the aforementioned "knowing-doing gap" and our need to understand what it is and how to overcome it; next, "a deep-seated private pessimism about how much people really can change"; and finally, the need for a better understanding of human development (what it is, how it is enabled, how it is constrained) in order to transform the operating system itself. Kegan and Lahey identify and then explain with rigorous precision "a route to genuine development, to the qualitative expansions of mind that significant increase human capability at work - not by rehiring but by renewing existing talent." They divide their material into three parts. First, they suggest new ways to understand the nature of change; then they demonstrate the value of their "deceptively simple process" by which achieve and then sustain improvement of individual, team, and organizational; then in Part 3, they invite their reader to complete a self-diagnosis to identify various "immunities" (at the personal, group, and organizational levels) that need to be overcome.

I was especially interested in the various devices that Kegan and Lahey provide. For example, the "X-ray" that consists of three columns on which to identify Behavior Goals (e.g. be more receptive to new ideas), Doing/Not Doing Instead behaviors that work against the goals (e.g. giving curt responses to new ideas with a "closing off," "cutting off" tone-of-voice), and Hidden Competing Commitments (e.g. "To have things done my way!"). Throughout their book, Kegan and Lahey use this device to demonstrate how both individuals and organizations have specified desired goals, changes needed to achieve them, and "hidden" but nonetheless significant elements that could delay, if not deny, achieving the desired goals. In Chapter, "Overcoming Groupwide Immunity to Change," they introduce another column: Collective Hidden Competing Commitments. Check out Figure 4-1 on Page 90. The question raised is "Why are junior faculty in a humanities department so rarely promoted?" In the fourth column, two collective competing commitments are identified: "We are committed to not increasing our workload on advising, teaching, and committee fronts. We are committed to preserving the privileges of seniority." Not all applications of the X-ray device need four columns. (Figure 4-5 on Page 100 doesn't whereas Figures 4-6 and 4-7 on Pages 106 and 107 do.) Other variations on the device include a different four-column matrix such as Figure 9-1 on Page 231 that a reader can use to create her or his own immunity X-ray.

For me, some of the most valuable material is provided in Chapter 8 as Kegan and Lahey focus on three "necessary ingredients" that, for shorthand purposes, they identify as "gut," "head and heart," and "hand." The extent to which a person is connected to all three will almost certainly determine the extent to which that person will be able to achieve and then sustain the significant changes that are desired. The two-pronged challenge is to establish and then sustain a tight connection with each of the three necessary ingredients, and, to then get them and sustain them in proper alignment/balance with each other. Kegan and Lahey examine each of the three ingredients, stressing the unique role of each: the "gut" functions as a vital source of motivation to "unlock" the potential for change, "head and heart" work simultaneously to engage both thinking and feeling throughout change initiatives, and the "hand" metaphor correctly suggests the importance of doing what the mind perceives and the heart yearns to be done. The authors quote Immanuel Kant's observation that "perception without conception is blind." In this context, I am reminded of Thomas Edison's assertion that "vision without execution is hallucination."

Near the end of this chapter, they list and briefly discuss what those who have helped to accomplish adaptive change share in common. For example, they change both their mindset and their behavior. They are keen observers of their own thoughts, feelings, and actions to learn as much as they can from them, not only about themselves but also (and especially) about their impact on others. One of their more important, indeed compelling objectives is to create more mental and emotional "space" for themselves; that is, to create more opportunities to learn, stretch, and (yes) to fail because they realize that every so-called "failure" is a precious learning opportunity. They take focused, bold and yet prudent risks and thereby "build on actual, rather than imagined, data about the consequences of their new actions."(In this respect, they are "betting" on themselves.) And paradoxically, the more they experience and the more disciplined as well as enlightened they become, the greater their sense of personal freedom. They find an increasingly more numerous - and more significant - opportunities to apply what they have learned. Their new as well as their more highly developed mental capabilities can be brought to bear on other challenges, in other venues, both in their work and in their personal lives. In the final chapter, Kegan and Lahey list seven crucial attributes of those individuals and organizations that take "a genuinely developmental stance."(Pages 308-309) I presume to suggest that those about to read this book examine this list first, then the Introduction and twelve chapters. I think this approach will guide and inform a careful reading of the material provided.

When concluding their brilliant book, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey reassure their reader "that there is no expiration date on your ability to grow." That said, "We wish you big leaps and safe landings." In personal development as in climbing the world's highest mountains, attitude determines altitude. Let the ascent begin!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Improving Leadership or Life Changing?, 8 July 2011
By 
Mark "Trainer, Facilitator and Coach" (Neath, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Immunity to Change is a rare gem of a book in the leadership field with an Immunity Diagnostic tool that creates profound personal insight and growth in a short space of time. As the authors state the emphasis of this book is more toward development than leadership techniques or theories and I had not expected to find such a personally challenging book in academia and less so the business arena. The diagnostic, which helps the individual, team and organisation become more aware of their repeated behaviours, is closer to personal development albeit with business based language. With similarities to their colleague Heifitz's Adaptive Leadership ideas we are effectively asked to 'get on our own balcony' and see our own repeated thoughts, behaviours and the impact these have. While we may think these aspects of ourselves (for example the need for control or approval) are well hidden they are in practice easy for those around us to see. Bringing these, often self imposed, limitations to consciousness is the art of this book.

Using the concepts in this book: Rarely have I experienced the thoughtful silence that falls over a group when using the Immunity Diagnostic in training and development sessions. As participants consider the conflict between what they claim to believe in and what they actually do many 'ah ha' moments occur. Four seemingly straightforward questions cut straight to the heart of the variance in out current level of thinking. The diagnostic allows us to identify the 'competing commitment' - or why we behave in ways that undermine what we say we want to achieve. Having identified the competing commitment it's a short step to exposing the assumption we make about how the world works, an assumption which may be self limiting. The book also offers a sound method for observing, moving beyond assumptions and testing new thinking and behaviours.

Links to personal development: There is a remarkable similarity between the material presented here and the coaching concepts of identifying limiting beliefs and reframing them. Participants using the diagnostic have commented that this feels like self coaching. Even more surprising is how closely related to Byron Katie's thework (as described in the book Loving What Is) this material is. Although based in different fields both systems ask us to examine our thinking and how differently we might behave if we question the assumptions behind our thoughts.

An enlightening yet practical take on leadership, potentially life changing when applied with personal honesty.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Guide to overcoming resistance to change, 21 Dec 2009
By 
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good) (Hardcover)
The core concept of this fascinating, important book - that people and organizations want to change but often fail because they get in their own way - is simple and clear. Many of the stories of how individuals and groups have changed are inspiring. However, some are so attenuated that they fail to capture subtleties, such as exactly how the subjects identified and overcame the beliefs that blocked them. That said, Robert Kegan, who teaches at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, and Lisa Laskow Lahey, the associate director of Harvard's Change Leadership Group, address a problem many people encounter daily, and their synthesizing discussion of learning theory provides a useful framework for thinking about change. They are perceptive about the fundamental mismatch between how people attempt to change and what they really need to do. getAbstract recommends this book to managers and executives who must guide their organizations through transformations or crises, and to individuals who want to remain open-minded and flexible.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly insightful with some useful case studies about changing behaviour, 11 Dec 2013
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a great companion to Heifetz and Linsky's 'Adaptive Leadership' work.
Explains why adaptive change is so hard for individuals as well as organisations. Many change management books are far too simplistic and deal with 'processes'. Bob Kegan examines the competing values and commitments that create opposing forces for change, which provides a much deeper and richer understanding of human reality.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Make a change, 26 Aug 2013
By 
M. Jefferies "elliemj" (Cardiff,Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good) (Hardcover)
I thought this was a fantastic book. Well before I reached the end I wanted to get going in the organisation I work for and make a difference by implementing the transformative strategies.
Essentially, Kegan and Lahey ask us to think about the subconscious fears that reinforce our sense of self in the workplace. Our perception of effectiveness as leaders and managers becomes a personal ecology for survival. But as Kegan points out, it is exactly this process of entrenching ourselves against threats to the equilibrium of our ecosystem that prevents progress. We become programmed not to endanger the well-being of the system.
This is certainly not a book that solicits some kind of redemptive confession of sins in the workplace or an excuse for another CBT experience. Actually Kegan and Lahey are as unpretentious and direct as you would hope. Their work is based on years of research but it is never promoted at the expense of clarity and accessibility. In fact the case studies used to illustrate stages of the change process are engaging, stimulating and sometimes moving as they describe the experience of individuals and organisations in commerce, education, health and finance.
The book itself is a remarkable hybrid of hypothesis, argument and workbook as the case is made for the immunity to change theory and you are then directly engaged in the process with a sequence of brilliantly simple grids. Having identified targets for improvement in your organisation, you soon find yourself generating the underlying reasons why change has been difficult, even impossible. I found this experience remarkable. My own ecosystem seemed entirely dependent on me not appearing lazy to my colleagues, not found wanting for specific knowledge, not ready with a convincing answer, always the best at leading meetings. If my role is to bring the best out of others, why am I hung up on demonstrating that I am always busy with things that could and should be delegated to others. I know it is a hackneyed thing to say, but I have to admit that reading the book made me feel that Kegan and Lahey know about my issues, have seen it before in their field studies. Best thing is, they're not preaching at me or blaming me but giving me a great chance to make things better if I so wish !
I've now got their Change leadership book co-authored with Tony Wagner. It's superb.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Loving it so far: simple yet profound formula for change, 17 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good) (Hardcover)
I must admit I was expecting another book full of insightful anecdotes but no real formulas for change. Well, so far I am so excited reading this book I can't wait for my lunchbreaks! In one sense there's nothing new under the sun here - the idea that our resistance to change is driven by a positive need to keep things as they are. Having said that, the way it is written about is very clear, and the authors keep adding an extra element of their change formula per half chapter and I can tell its leading up to some very useful information about changing. the Procastination Equation did the same thing but it was so complicated compared to this.

As a professional meta-coach, I am finding all kinds of ways from the book to think about my existing change work: simpler ways to explain things and great coaching questions. Personally, I think this book is giving me some great new handles for change and despite the pseudo-pop cover the stories and framework for change inside are convincingly developed. No I haven't read it all but I can't wait for the next chapter!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely marvellous, 21 Nov 2011
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This review is from: Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good) (Hardcover)
I can't really fault this book - except to say that some of the same material is covered in different ways in an earlier book: How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation.

The whole concept is great - that we can only really change our organisations if we are prepared to step up and change ourselves first.

And the book then gives really practical advice on how to do that.

Simply loved it.
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