Part 1: Three Lessons from Vanilla Ice


Vanilla Ice starts “Ice, Ice Baby” with important words for government leaders to consider – All right Stop, Collaborate and Listen. How often do we take time to do these three things and if we do, how effective are we at them? Over the next three weeks, I will share ways we can incorporate more Stop, Collaborate and Listen into our organizations. Today, we will focus on Stop.

A wise mentor once observed that we often add things to our organizations – new programs, new priorities, new initiatives, new tasks – but often overlook the opportunity to stop doing things. So I charge you with evaluating your organization’s work and identifying what it should stop doing – and create a Stop Doing List. Here are six steps to create your Stop Doing List.

  1. Law Review. Have your attorneys analyze what the law requires and what you actually do. You can then evaluate whether or not you should continue activities that are not legally required.
  2. SWOT Analysis. Look at your weaknesses and threats on a SWOT analysis. If there is overlap in those two categories, many strategists would recommend stopping those functions. Instead, look for a partner to fulfill that role or determine if that function really is necessary.
  3. Ask Why. While we may often ask why we do something a certain way, I challenge you to ask why are we even doing this at all. If the answer is because that’s what we’ve always done it, or so and so thinks this is important, or I don’t know I was just told it needed to be done, then these are all likely flags that these should be considered for the Stop Doing List.
  4. Align Functions with Mission. With your mission at the top of a page, list your core business functions that further that mission. Then list the functions that support your core business functions. Then list the rest of your business functions not covered in the first two categories. The last list is a good reference to consider for inclusion on the Stop Doing List. For example, as the state’s environmental, regulatory agency, our core business functions include permitting; inspecting; responding to citizen concerns; monitoring air, land and water; and taking enforcement actions. We need human resources, fiscal, procurement, and administrative support to make these core business functions happen. I could then create a third list of functions not covered by the first two categories and evaluate whether to stop them.
  5. Evaluate ROI. In a world of scarce resources, it’s important to evaluate our return on investment. Look at your functions to determine how well they provide a return on investment of time, money, mission and other areas that are important to you and your organization.
  6. Look Outside. Look at organizations and entities external to you. Are their duplicative efforts between your organization and others? If so, does it make sense for you to continue performing those functions or could you support other organizations to better meet customer needs?

Have you ever created a Stop Doing List? How did you determine what made the list?

And in case you need a break today, check out his music video from 1989. Aren’t you glad Vanilla Ice added creating new music to his stop doing list?

Meredith Benton is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Mary Woodard

Very good article “Three lessons from Vanilla Ice”. I can’t find what “SWOT” actually stands for. I guess it has something to do with weakness and threat?

Meredith Benton

Mary, Thank you for your comment and I am sorry that I did not explain the acronym. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. An organization or team may do a SWOT analysis as part of a strategic planning process. Strengths and Weaknesses are generally internal to the organization, while Opportunities and Threats are generally external. The web is full of helpful resources and references on SWOT analyses, if you are interested in learning more. Thanks for taking the time to comment and I hope my response is helpful. Please let me know if you need anything else.