Continuous Improvement Leaders: Boeing's Jason Casebolt, Pt. II
February 18, 2021
by Tom Lemoine
Jason Casebolt is a Production System Quality Leader for The Boeing Company. In Part I of our conversation, we spoke about his new role, lessons learned abroad, and how to implement practical continuous improvement efforts. In Part II below, Jason discusses recent industry recognition, his drive for professional education, and why continuous improvement runs in the family.
Q: In Part I of our interview, you discussed your award-winning ‘Get to Gold’ project, which leveraged globally dispersed teams to reduce defects and related quality costs. Why do you think the project resonated with the selection committee?
A: I think ‘Get to Gold’ resonated with the Boeing and Aviation Week selection committees by showing that quick and radical results are possible with teamwork, even if the teams are spread across the globe. For example, once our factory project team got to the “Improve” stage of generating and implementing countermeasures, we needed some specialized help that we did not have available internally. Therefore, we collaborated with peers in China, Singapore, India, Australia, and the United States for help with audit practices, requirement consumption fundamentals, standard work guidance, and data science application development. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without this collaboration, and I am proud that I was able to bring several of those multi-national teammates with me to Houston when we accepted the award from the top leaders of our company.
Q: It’s not every day that a mother and son are both deemed “heroes” of their industry. But that’s exactly what happened to you and your mom — a former Quality Engineer at General Motors — in the American Society for Quality’s (ASQ) November edition of Quality Progress magazine. Can you provide some background on that story?
A: I reference my mother way more than I should, but she did set such a great example for me growing up. She was a quality professional in the auto industry, and spent many nights pursuing her education and certification as a Quality Engineer. I cannot imagine that I would have spent so much time leveraging part-time education if she hadn’t showed me that the long nights and sacrifice to better yourself can be worth it.
She used to teach quality improvement and data courses at General Motors. Not too long ago, she mentioned how she used to teach Histogram and Normal Distribution concepts on overhead projectors with the clear transparency sheets. Every time I teach a class on improvement, stats, or problem solving, I really feel like I am following in her footsteps.
So when ASQ recently announced an opportunity to nominate your “Quality Hero” for World Quality Month, I wrote from the heart about how much she inspired me and set such a great life example. Even with the overwhelming number of responses that ASQ received, I was excited that her story made the November 2020 magazine issue. Even better, it was a great surprise that one of my collaborators from Singapore nominated me as well, which was printed as an ASQ online follow-up.
Q: In addition to a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, law degree, U-M Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt certification (not to mention other credentials!), you recently completed the U-M Nexus Lean Leadership certificate. Considering all your credentials and accomplishments, what drives you to keep learning?
A: From a credential standpoint, I have had a sufficient amount of resume material for a few years now — and you are supposed to keep resumes short anyway. So that isn’t the reason that I keep learning, and certainly isn’t the main reason that I have completed six certifications through U-M Nexus. Instead, I simply pursue professional education to help me do my job better.
That is my blueprint when I start a new position — I find additional education that will immediately enable me to take that position to the next level. For example, when I was a contract negotiator earlier in my career, I became an attorney in the evenings. Then, I found the U-M Nexus Design for Six Sigma program when I needed to learn how to define and fulfill Industry 4.0 quality requirements. Even when I was still living out of temporary living hotels in Malaysia, I started pursuing the online Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification, before eventually moving on to the Black Belt and Master Black Belt.
Despite the global pandemic, I approached my current role the same way. To better understand how to lead within a Lean management system, I virtually attended the previous U-M Nexus Lean Leadership course at the end of last year — which has recently changed from in-person instruction to a mixture of pre-recorded and remote-live learning via Zoom. In addition to my company’s standard training, templates, and other materials, the U-M course provided me with deeper cross-industry examples, options, and context that will make me a more well-rounded Lean Leader. This included some of those “chiropractic” adjustments (like I mentioned in Part I) regarding subtle-but-significant practical points that can make a huge difference in Lean management systems being effective.
Since I anticipate that a significant part of my 2021 will involve coaching A3 storyboards, I just enrolled in the Coaching for Improvement class that starts on March 15th. While I have coached hundreds of A3s (and learned a lot myself from doing so), I haven’t yet learned how to be a coach — at least in a formal way. So, again, I am matching my desire to gain practical knowledge and context with a U-M Nexus professional education class that will bridge the gap.
In that regard, I may never stop leveraging education to prepare for my jobs. The emphasis for me, though, is to ensure that what I am spending my time on is relevant and can be immediately applied in my work. That is why I keep coming back to U-M Nexus — the level of knowledge and practical application gained in every course so far has been a key part of my career growth.