Webinar: Organizational Immunity to Change

Blocks forming the word Immunity, with the I overturning to CO to spell community.

Identifying and Dealing with Organizational Barriers
to Living Our Own Vision and Meeting Our Own Goals
Sep 25 - Oct 30, 2023  on Zoom

Cancelled due to insufficient enrollment

Many of our communities have a similar experience:  we want to make change, and we may even create detailed plans to make the change, and yet that change does not happen.  Maybe it’s about becoming more diverse in age, class, race, or other dimensions.  Maybe it’s about establishing financial sustainability. Maybe it’s about growth in general.  Maybe it’s about how we aren’t living up to our own ideals and treating each other as persons of worth and dignity.  We keep trying solutions that feel like they should work, but they don’t.  The quick fixes sound great and promise a lot, and then don’t produce the desired results.

That’s what’s called immunity to change – repeatedly committing to changes that do not happen.  Psychologists Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, after many years of research into why individuals and organizations don’t follow through on their own desires for change, distilled what they learned.  Their book, Immunity to Change, and their workshops, including an incredibly popular online version sponsored by Harvard University, have brought these ideas to many who have applied them successfully.

The status quo is powerful.  We’re likely in our group because it is more satisfying than not.  But to change, you’ll have to – well, change!

Does this description sound like something happening in your community?  (Ethical Societies, UU congregations, humanist communities, and other religiously progressive communities are the main audience for this webinar.)  Do you want to try to figure out why your community is in this spiral of not achieving desired objectives or living more fully into its vision?

Who should attend?  It is most effective to take this webinar with one or more others from your group, so that you can brainstorm and later work together in both identifying and then dealing with the issues involved.  Thus, there is a discount for the second and subsequent registrants who register together from the same community.  And, if you are alone, you still may have an impact.  Leadership in dealing with immunity to change is an activity, not a role.  Leadership can arise anywhere in the organization by any participant.  You do not need to be an elected leader (board member, etc.) to have influence over the change process in your group, though of course those who have been elected may have more power to implement solutions.

Those who register should commit themselves to doing some thinking, observing, and perhaps talking to others, as you work through the process of identifying barriers and how to deal with them. 

Webinar in Four Sessions

Each session will be 2 hours, except the first one which is 2.5 hours (with a 10-minute break in the middle).  There will be a mix of presentations, group discussions, interactive activities, and real-life case studies.  There is work between sessions to apply the ideas and prepare for the next session.  Come to the first class prepared to state one sentence about the goal or vision which your organization has wanted to achieve but has been unable to, usually over several iterations of attempts to achieve it.

  1. Immunity to Change and Organizational Change

We’ll begin to get to know each other, as fellow learners and agents of change who can be support for each other.  We’ll learn the basics of the Immunity to Change model and how it applies to organizational change.  We’ll differentiate technical challenges and adaptive challenges. We’ll also learn about the impact of collective mindset and organizational culture, and how they can create hidden commitments to resist change.  We’ll share the desired goals and visions that we bring to this process – ones that we and our organizations have wanted to achieve, but have not been able to.  This session will be 2.5 hours long, to give adequate time to introducing what is likely new material for many participants, and to share our hopes, goals, and visions for change.

  1. Identifying What Hinders Progress

We’ll work together to identify and understand the competing commitments that are at work in our organization.  We’ll learn how to recognize self-protection mechanisms and common patterns of resistance.  We’ll clarify the big assumptions and mental models that may create barriers to change, and we’ll learn some techniques for reframing thoughts and beliefs.

  1. Overcoming Resistance to Change

In this session, we’ll look at how you can create safe-to-fail experiments to test assumptions and commitments, and how to handle setbacks so they become opportunities. We’ll explore how we can help our groups become learning organizations. We’ll engage with each other and try to create a supportive environment in which we can hold each other accountable.

  1. Applying Immunity to Change: Leading Change From Within

In this session, we’ll share experiences and insights from those experiments initiated in the previous session.  We’ll reflect on challenges and breakthroughs. We’ll learn what being a change agent involves, and how to build resilience and adaptability within our communities.  We’ll also address how we can integrate Immunity to Change efforts with traditional change management approaches.

At the end of the webinar, participants will decide if enough want to continue as a mutual support group for their change efforts, and if so, we’ll together figure out the best process for that.


Webinar sessions will be held on Zoom, on the following dates:

  1. Monday, Sep 25, 7:00 - 9:30 pm  (this session is longer than the others)
  2. Monday, Oct 2, 7:30 - 9:30 pm
  3. Monday, Oct 16, 7:30 - 9:30 pm
  4. Monday, Oct 30, 7:30 - 9:30 pm


The contribution for the first participant from any Society is $50-$150 sliding scale, with each person deciding where they fit on the scale.  The second and subsequent participants who register from the same group at the same time is $25-$75 per person.  All payments must be made in advance of the first session.  Your contribution is refundable until 24 hours before the start of the first session.

We will hold 20% of the seats for full scholarships (thus, for each 4 people who register and pay, one additional person can attend at a full scholarship).  Register for a full or partial scholarship (there is no vetting, other than asking that you only request this if you need it), and we’ll release the scholarships as we are able.

While it would be wonderful to make this available at no cost for everyone, there is time involved for developing and presenting the workshop, and your fees help to make this and future programs possible.

Who Is Sponsoring This?

This is a project sponsored by Jone Johnson Lewis and an organization she and others are beginning to create to support those who want to build authentic humanist and religiously progressive community (more on that in a few months).  Your fees help support Jone in developing and presenting this program and others.  Jone has more than 50 (!) years of experience facilitating groups, many of those years working with organizational change.  She is a certified Ethical Culture Leader and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister.

This webinar is not officially affiliated with the American Ethical Union, the Unitarian Universalist Association, or the American Humanist Association, though groups affiliated with those organizations will find this program appropriate for their use.

due to insufficient enrollment