The Immunity to Change Model

The Immunity to Change Model

The Immunity to Change Model

Change is hard. Not exactly a revolutionary statement, but one that is important to consider as you try to embark on a new challenge or program. Both personally and professionally, changing behaviors and seeking new outcomes is inherently difficult. But why is it so difficult? And in what ways do we each contribute to slowing down this progress?

The Immunity to Change Model, pioneered by Robert Keegan and Lisa Lahey, attempts to help define these issues. In assessing the behaviors you commit that run counter to your goals, identifying areas where you may be unconsciously fighting against (like your immune system) your efforts, and analyzing the assumptions that you bring with you that stall your progress, they provide a basis for attempting to better understand the change process.

The model breaks down your improvement needs into the following steps through their Immunity Map:

Identify Your Goal

What have you been striving to accomplish that you just can’t seem to get off the ground? From a personal perspective, an easy analogy is the New Years’ Resolution. For an organization, these goals can include being more proactive on social media, updating your website, or finding a new revenue stream for fundraising.

Behaviors That Work Against Your Goal

Eating that bag of chips instead of a salad is a quick way to break your resolution to eat better. Similarly, relying on volunteers to continue to run your social media can be hindering your ability to be more proactive. Delaying progress on a new website because of resource limitations counts as a behavior counter to your goal as well, as does not attending a networking event or hesitating in making the ask to a donor when considering your longterm fundraising goals.

Hidden Competing Commitments

By far the most difficult area to identify in the model are your hidden competing commitments – the word hidden is used very deliberately here. What they mean by hidden commitments are the obligations and ideas that you may not realize are affecting your ability to change. Maybe you grabbed that bag of chips because the salad place had a long line, and you hate being late to meetings for fear of disappointing others. The fear of disappointing others is your hidden commitment – the main factor (while not obviously so) that is affecting your ability to carry out your improvement goal.

Organizationally, this can be even harder to identify, as numerous individuals may have reasons to delay or obfuscate new ideas or approaches. Using our previous examples, you may continue to rely on volunteers for social media because of the fear of seeming reckless of donor dollars if you invest in an area that’s value is not easily understood by most. Perhaps you keep delaying the new website because of a fear that the time necessary to complete this project will keep you from launching that new program initiative that you know more obviously relates to your work. And finally, in not sending that email to a new donor, you might be afraid of the rejection that might come, and a fear of the disappointment that person or your leaders might have in your failure.

This is where you can have an a-ha moment – that can tie into multiple areas of your life and work outside of the goal you are assessing. Another way of thinking about the hidden commitments is – if you were to do the opposite of your current behavior (grab a salad and show up late), then what are you most concerned about happening? Why is that?

Big Assumptions

Once you have identified your hidden competing competencies, you then need to identify the “big assumptions.” These are the ideas and opinions you bring with you that are derailing your progress.

To wrap up our resolution example, the assumption you may hold is that the opinion you have of your timeliness is more important than your individual health. For our organizational examples, you might be assuming that donors won’t understand the importance of investing in new resources outside of direct services; that the website isn’t affecting the success of your other programming; or that in failing to secure the donor you are approaching now, you aren’t possibly opening up another opportunity with that person or with their network.

If you’d like to learn more about this model and possible use cases, check out their EdX Course that should be starting up again soon.

The Immunity to Change Model won’t decide a course of action for you or your organization, but it is a tool to help discover why you aren’t hitting your goals. Why you aren’t being more effective at new initiatives or outreach. And at SCC, we sure do loving thinking about the “why.”

Here’s a simple goal for you to accomplish this week – read our links to stay up to date on important topics – you should definitely assume they will help you be a more effective leader:

  1. We’ve run across this many times – when can we use images we find on the internet on our own social media or blog posts?
  2. Fellow UCLA and Dance Marathon alumni Jaemin Yi discusses the 3 mistakes to avoid when writing a nonprofit video script.
  3. Elizabeth Chung dispenses her 3 important parts of a strong donation page.
  4. Expect a decrease in likes on your Facebook page – Greg Kumparak from Techcrunch explains why.
  5. John Haydon outlines 3 strategies to increase website traffic from Facebook.
  6. Real life examples of relevancy – Shana Masterson shares a few examples of email communication sent on Valentine’s Day.

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