I read the term “simulated progress” in a blog post by Seth Godin. He wasn’t talking specifically about this term, but it is what I remembered from his post. I’ve been sort of obsessing on it ever since, thinking about all the ways I have participated in activities that simulate progress. Status meetings, strategic planning updates, budget reviews, process improvement meetings where ideas get discussed and never implemented, exercising to burn the extra calories I choose to consume, etc.
Sometimes simulated progress can lead to real progress. But, more often than not, simulated progress only serves to make us feel good, create some fleeting sense of accountability, and generally limits actual changes to the status quo. The intangible feeling of progress merely masks the fact that no real progress has occurred. We are no closer to actually achieving something meaningful.
I’ve participated in, and even led, activities that (in retrospect) were only creating simulated progress. I wasn’t doing it purposely, and I’m sure I had the best of intentions. The others who were participating along with me were motivated to create some type of positive result…progress toward goals we had identified. These activities weren’t 100% simulated progress, but I know some that had a high percentage.
I could go on. Suffice it to say that the road to status quo and competitive disadvantage is surely littered with examples of simulated progress.