Saturday, March 14, 2015

This Year's Running Calendar

This morning I am sitting in my hotel room in Washington, D.C. waiting until 9am so I can begin my weekly long run. By coincidence, today just happens to be the annual running of the Rock 'n' Roll half and full marathon in Washington and I completely missed it. I didn't find out about the event until Monday and by then it was too late to register online. There's 26,000 runners currently massing down on the national mall for a 7:30am start. A good portion my long run this week takes me around the mall and down to Arlington National Cemetery. I'll have to wait them out for a few hours, which is fine because it just happens to be pouring down rain. It's also cold and I forgot to bring my gloves on this trip.

My long run today will take me on a 12.1 mile path around our nation's capital. I'll be starting a couple blocks north of Dupont Circle at my hotel, and then down to the north side of the White House. Then, I'll continue down 15th street to the Washington monument and then east on the mall to the United States Congress. There's some nice hills around Congress, so I'll go up the north side and then run south in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to the other side of the Capital building and then turn west over the hills and head back down the mall. From there, it's all the way down the mall to the Lincoln Memorial and then across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery. From there, I'll turn around and head back to the Lincoln Memorial and then back to the Washington Monument. Then, I'll head north up 17th street back to the White House and then up to DuPont Circle to my starting point. Todays plan is to run this in zone 2 at a pace of about 11 minutes/mile. Once I'm finished I'll post a link to the run below.

So far Gail and I have three races on our calendar for the year. We're currently training for the annual Chick-fil-a Half Marathon that will run in Athens, Georgia on April 18th. After that, we'll do the Athens Half Marathon that will run on October 25th. Then our finale for the year will be the Rock 'n' Roll Half and Full Marathon in Savannah, Georgia on November 7th. While Gail will stick to the half marathon in Savannah, I'll be attempting my first full marathon on what will be just a couple of days shy of my 47th birthday.

My training regime each week includes four miles of hill work on Mondays, an easy four mile run on a track on Tuesdays, speed work on a track (either a zone 4 tempo run or intervals in zone 5) on Wednesdays, an endurance run (zone 2) on Thursdays, and a long run (zone 2) on Saturdays. Friday and Sunday are my days off. Distance for the long run follows a formula that comes from Rodale's The Runner's World Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training. I'm currently training based on heart rate zone and not pace (that's a subject for a later blog). As I think about these three events this year, I would like to finish both half marathons under 2 hours (PR is currently 1:58:26) and the full marathon under 4:30. My training plans are designed with those goals in mind.

For the next few weeks, leading up to the Chick-fil-a Half Marathon, Gail and I will run 8 miles (March 21st), 10 miles (March 28th), 8 miles (April 4th), and 6 miles (April 11th). Post-race, we'll take it easy for three weeks and then start a 16 week plan that will focus on building the necessary endurance to finish a full marathon (more on that training plan will also come in a later blog).

It's amazing, but what they say is true. That once you start long-distance running it becomes highly addictive and you can't turn off the desire to hit the road and log some miles. In fact, you begin planning your entire life around your training schedule, especially when traveling. On the road, I'm having to pack an extra bag in order to carry all my gear with me.

Here's the bag of running gear that I now travel with
So, what's the goal of all of this? Simply put, it's just to get better. To move the needle. To make progress. To set stretch goals and meet them. But doing so in a way that recognizes that real, lasting, sustained progress happens in regular increments not in quick bursts. Moving forward and maintaining momentum takes work because you can't ever, ever rest. The second you pause, atrophy sets in and momentum shifts the wrong way. Cycles are hard to break out of, both good ones and bad ones. That's why I go to bed early every night and get up hours before daybreak to go running.

This blog has always served as the forum for writing about things that I currently have as passion for. Right now, that's running. In the past it's been topics like technology, IT leadership, changes in higher education, and so on. Those topics will still pop-up from time to time, but for now you will see more about the activities I tend to plan my life around these days - and that's running. Life is a marathon, it's not a sprint.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Question of the Day

Here's the question of the day. Which one of these two runners enjoyed their race more?


Gail's Time
Tim's Time


Monday, February 2, 2015

Why TechQual+

Later this week I’ll be delivering a three-hour online workshop on how to use the Higher Education TechQual+ Project survey and Web site tools. The survey and tools are available free of charge for assessing the quality of IT services on college or university campuses. The first question we’ll cover is “Why TechQual+?” Or, why should IT leaders use a standardized survey for gauging IT service quality? To answer that question, let me share an experience that I once had as an external reviewer assessing IT services at another university.

Over the course of two days, the review team had conducted a number of focus groups where we discussed perceptions of IT service quality. Overall, the feedback received was positive. There were many things the IT organization was doing that were well received. There were also a few areas where most agreed there were some opportunities for improvement. But, that was before we came to the last focus group on the last day. The tone and nature of the feedback from this one group of individuals was in stark contrast to what we had heard during our previous discussions.

In this last focus group, there was one individual who had very negative perceptions about the capabilities of the IT organization and its leadership. He didn’t just have negative opinions; he was also quite articulate and forceful in rallying the other focus group members to share in his beliefs. In short order this individual had successfully shifted the focus group to an open complaint session about the central IT organization and its leadership. Having performed countless focus groups in the past, the review team was able to put these negative perceptions within the broader context established by the other focus groups. However, this experience raised an interesting dilemma that goes to the heart of one of the fundamental challenges faced by IT leaders – the relationship between perceived service quality and IT leadership credibility.

Let’s suppose that the CIO’s president is walking around campus and they just happen to run into some of the same individuals who participated in our focus groups. What would they tell the president if the subject turned to concerns about IT service quality? What would the president’s perception of IT service quality be if they only talked to the one individual who possessed such strong negative opinions? The question for IT leaders is do you want to leave the reputation of your organization’s performance and leadership to such chance encounters?

Successful IT leaders rely on tools like TechQual+ to regularly collect data regarding the quality of IT services and to solicit feedback on opportunities for improvement. Such data helps to create a context for the anecdotal feedback that comes through casual conversations. The strength of TechQual+ is that it provides a common way to collect data on IT service quality, allowing for comparisons against normative data collected from other institutions also administering the survey. There is now a large community of participating institutions using TechQual+ to drive IT continuous improvement programs on their campuses.

There is a direct relationship between perceptions of IT service quality and the credibility and effectiveness of IT leaders. Those with strong reputations for service quality find it easier to build alliances and gain support for their work. Ultimately, on every college or university campus there is a prevailing narrative about IT services and the capabilities and performance of the IT organization. Tools like TechQual+ can help IT leaders drive this narrative, by using data to inform conversations about more effective delivery and use of IT services. To get started with TechQual+ or to learn more please visit the project’s Web site at http://www.techqual.org.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The TechQual+ Survey for 2015

The Higher Education TechQual+ Project aims to produce a standard, generalizable survey that assesses the quality of IT services in higher education from the perspective of students, faculty, and staff. Each year the TechQual+ core survey is updated based on feedback from respondents and the community of participating institutions. This year's update was finalized over this past weekend is now available for schools to administer through the Higher Education TechQual+ Web site.

The survey is organized in three sections, focusing on Internet access, online services, and user support. The format and approach of the survey is based on SERVQUAL which has strong support in the academic literature for assessing customer satisfaction. The 2015 version of the survey can be found on the TechQual+ Web site following this link. This YouTube video discusses the approach and development of the TechQual+ core survey over the past several years.

Changes to the survey this year were focused on the need to clarify the language for some items, the need to assess emerging services such as learning technologies and data for decision-support, and aligning the customer service questions more closely with the original SERVQUAL items. With these changes we will begin publishing findings from the project later this year once the new survey has been administered at multiple institutions. 

Over the past decade over 250,000 students, faculty, and staff have completed the TechQual+ core survey at 100+ institutions. The use of the core survey and the Web tools for administering surveys is available free of charge. There are numerous opportunities for learning more about the project, including monthly conference calls and an online training session scheduled for February 6, 2015. For more information please visit the TechQual+ project Web site or contact the project's principal investigator at accidentalcio@icloud.com by e-mail.