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There are documented cases of heart patients resisting change even when it’s those few little pills taken at precise dose and timing (with minimal side effects) that prevents certain pain, even death.

So why refuse change in the face of such irrefutable, even life-saving logic?

This is change immunity at its extreme but it’s not only doctors who see it. Ask anyone in the business of dispensing change advice, including change practitioners.

In their 2009 work, Kegan and Lehay identified this kind of change immunity as having roots in a threat to the perception of self. More specifically, the individual sees the change will fundamentally damage their personal status or public profile and change how others might view him/her.

Harking back to the heart patients, it was this deeply personal struggle that doctors were grappling with. In one case that was typical of many others, one patient associated certain medications with the elderly and being quite young was worried others would make the same association. This created immense change immunity despite the medication being key to preserving life!

As change managers, consider the very different change journey you could lead by simply looking beyond the practical and asking yourself, what fundamental challenge, even threat, am I asking this person or team to face? This approach opens the door to powerful change at the deepest levels. We’d suggest getting amongst the teams and individuals who will affect the change, to truly understand what makes them and their world tick. Then do your best work from there.