I agree that the important thing is progression, and there are different ways of measuring progress. Not sure I agree with the last sentence though, especially for beginners.
Some people (probably MOST people, who are fully untrained) simply aren't strong enough to do enough work (in terms of intensity / volume) to damage the muscle fibers when they first start lifting. For these people, neural adaptation has to occur before hypertrophy. Which is why a lot of beginners don't see any gains in the first couple months, and then start growing.
Young male athletes may not experience this (I didn't experience it myself -- I put on 25 lbs in my first 3 months) but untrained people do. My friend is going through it right now -- complaining about how his arms haven't gotten bigger yet, but his upper body strength is terrible (can't do a single pullup, or dips, etc). He needs to get stronger before he will grow, not the other way around.