One of the things you have to be careful about when you’re a hardcore policy wonk is not to “over-jargon,” especially with acronyms. You know, don’t throw in the phrase “STEM degrees” without explaining to the average person that you’re referring to “science, technology, engineering and math.” Or remember not to refer to the importance of “TPA in getting TPP passed,” unless you’re willing to make sure everyone knows about trade promotion authority (AKA “fast track negotiating authority”) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
So, I’m not going to make that mistake when I talk in this blog post about the amazing SWOT analysis we did as part of the International Competitiveness Strategy for Washington State. SWOT analysis stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats,” and it’s a strategic planning exercise that people undertake to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of a particular situation, and what should be done to improve it.
To me, the SWOT analysis was one of the most important parts of the Strategy, which is why it deserves to be this week’s GTKTICSFWSSBP. Ooops, there I go again with the insider lingo! Of course, you probably know from previous blog posts about that acroynm: Getting to Know the International Competitiveness Strategy for Washington State Series of Blog Posts.
And now that we’ve cleared up the terminology, let’s delve into the SWOT:
The Strategy’s executive summary displays the image of the SWOT analysis matrix, but I’ll do a quick summary here:
• Geography & Infrastructure
• Businesses & Products
• # of Companies Engaged in Trade
• WA’s International Visibility
• Coordination Among Int’l Organizations
• Services Exports
• Immigrants and Foreign born Residents
• Developing Countries
• Foreign Direct Investment
• Port Competition from Canada, Mexico and the Panama Canal
• Access to and from International Markets
• Public Support for Trade
Of course, with an exercise like this you can always disagree. Maybe you think there are greater opportunities than the ones listed above. Or maybe you would have listed “education” and “transportation” as weaknesses rather than strengths (there’s a case to be made for both). But these are certainly all key factors driving Washington’s international competitiveness in one way or the other. (And if you really want to argue, see the contest announcement below!)
I’m not going to spend a lot of time here explaining each SWOT factor (that’s pages 18-28 of the Strategy; feel free to read them in detail at your leisure). But my point is that this SWOT analysis is really the basis of everything in the Strategy. Yes, it’s cool that we found that 40% of all jobs in Washington are tied to trade. But that just tells me where we are. What I want to know is where we’re going and how we get there.
Or, put another way: what I want to know is how we increase Washington’s international competitiveness so that we’re creating tens of thousands of jobs for Washington residents, and helping Washington businesses be even more successful in the global marketplace. How do we address our weaknesses, take advantage of our opportunities and hedge against our threats? Even strengths can’t be ignored…they need to be maintained and built upon so that they don’t decline into weaknesses. The recommendations of the Strategy discuss those steps, and we’ll delve deeply into those in a future GTKTICSFWSSBP. But I encourage you to think about the SWOT factors and understand them first.
Finally, new International Competitiveness Strategy contest announcement: Leave your suggestions for additional SWOT factors that you’d like to see added. The best suggestion will win a free ticket to the Washington Trade Conference on November 12!