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Sick Design: False Progress

Sick Design: Progressum Deceptus

(Latin: “False Progress”)

We’ve all seen the office in a frenzy. PM’s running around, the sound of keyboards furiously rattling away, cheers of excitement. Then the day ends. You get into your car,  reflecting on what was accomplished, only to realize you got work done but no real progress made toward your project deadlines. It seems the team may finally be on the same page… but the page sure isn’t turning. Everyone is making false progress.


  • Burning the midnight oil constantly 
  • Frequent freakouts 
  • Sore hands from high-fiving too much
  • Last minute deliverables


  • Lack of accountability 
  • Infrequent check-ins 
  • No way or tool to see the project’s progress in real time 


No matter how organized and on track we are, you are only as strong as your weakest link when you’re part of a team. Learning that a part of a project is stalled when you thought it was going smoothly can be crushing.  

That disappointment can turn into frustration or resentment if the roadblock was something you could have easily removed had you only known about it. Even if your PM or team lead knows exactly where everyone’s at, each individual team member benefits from having complete clarity on how a project is progressing. 

Check the Team’s Pulse

Instituting frequent check-ins is a good first step to curing false progress.  Have everyone share what they’re working on, what their roadblocks are, and where they need help. 

The purpose of these check-ins is not to point the finger at people who are having a rough time or brag about how well our piece of the project is going. We’re a team. This is our chance to help each other move forward and ask for help when needed. 

Prescribe Accountability for False Progress

The second step: hold people accountable. Each team member should commit to their parts and provide accurate forecasts for what they will have finished and when. This doesn’t mean that if the work isn’t completed someone has dropped the ball, stuff happens. 

But whoever is accountable should make sure the team knows why something was not completed and what they are doing to move forward. This builds trust in the team, and teams that trust each other are productive teams. 

Keep a Project Chart

In addition to check-ins and accountability, it’s helpful to represent progress in a visual way. We use our internal tool Notable to do so. But you can use Gantt Charts to do this for your team.