Fake news is certainly “in the news” these days.

Whether it’s a false Facebook story, a weird conspiracy theory or even political punditry, fake stories seem to abound. According to Wikipedia, fake news websites “deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda and disinformation purporting to be real news—often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect….fake news sites seek to mislead.”

While “fake news” is certainly causing its fair share of problems, fake strategy is even worse.

What exactly is fake strategy? It’s falling into the trap of believing something is strategic when in fact it is just the same tactics you’ve done in the past.

How can you avoid fake strategy? Don’t fall for fake strategy.

Here are three tests you can give any strategic initiative to help determine if it is an authentic solution:

  • Is the strategy generic or unique?—If you can put another financial institution’s logo over yours on your strategic plan and no one would know the difference, then your plan is just like everyone else’s. And that’s a problem. Every single credit union or bank this year is doing strategic planning (or they better be!). Terms like “grow loans,” “increase services per household” and “improve operational efficiency” are going to be used. But what is truly different about your plan? What are you going to do strategically that no one else is? Don’t fall for the generic strategy trap.
  • Does the strategy solve problems or create them?—Strategy is about solutions. You know your credit union or bank have them: “issues.” Things that just won’t go away. What are top three challenges your financial institution is currently facing? They could be a lack of innovative technology, an unengaged staff, underperforming branches, or a myriad of other items. But if your executive team is not directly facing those items then you have an avoidance mindset (which is a problem in and of itself). Don’t’ fall for the “everything is fine” strategy trap.
  • Is the strategy thinking huge or setting the bar too low?—We all want successful strategic plans. So when it comes to the time in a strategic planning session where goals and objectives are set it’s easy to make sure our numbers are attainable. But if you aim for average or moderate growth, that’s exactly what you’ll hit. And who wants to be average? There should be an element of aggressiveness to your strategy and your numbers. Push. Dare. Stretch. Don’t fall for the “easy numbers” strategy trap.

A real strategy rather than a fake one involves uniqueness, solutions and stretching. In your next planning session, make sure your strategy has those elements. Otherwise, you might have fallen for a fake strategy.