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Time to get out of BED!

Every maintenance organization has its challenges, and how you and your team take on these challenges says a lot about the work culture. Organizations with solid company cultures are more likely to have better employee retention, higher productivity, and lower turnover rates. A strong culture where everyone feels valued leads to more engaged, productive, satisfied, and healthier employees. OARBED is a great tool to evaluate your team in terms of culture.

Introduction to OARBED

OARBED is a powerful mindset tool and a helpful reminder of how we should behave in our everyday professional or personal lives. OARBED is a useful framework for examining how an organization operates and how its stakeholders interact. It can help explain why organizations succeed or fail to meet their goals. OARBED stands for Ownership, Accountability, Responsibility, Blame, Excuses, and Denial. The OAR (Ownership, Accountability, and Responsibility) represents preferred behavior, referred to as “above the line” behavior, whereas BED (Blame, Excuse, Deny) is undesirable behavior, referred to as “below the line” behavior.

To illustrate OARBED, let us consider an example from my area of expertise—CMMS software. The benefits of CMMS software are widely reported, from increases in productivity to reductions in costs by automating processes, capturing knowledge, and eliminating redundancy and human error. Yet, many manufacturing organizations still use pen and paper to track maintenance operations. They think their outdated system does the job, and using pen and paper to track your maintenance may work fine, until it doesn’t. Here are some typical BED responses we hear at Zoidii when we ask folks why they don’t have a CMMS:

Blame: “It's impossible to track PMs as nobody ever put a proper system in place” or “We can’t get a CMMS as we have bad internet here”. Blame can be very damaging if used to deflect responsibility or point fingers.

Excuses: “We don’t have the time to put a CMMS in place”. Excuses help deflect responsibility and avoid taking ownership of a particular mistake or outcome.

Denial: “We don’t need a CMMS system. We are doing just fine writing down what happened in the logbook”. Denial can be destructive because it prevents individuals from taking ownership of their actions and responsibility for their results.

Are you in denial or just making excuses?

Behaviors such as making excuses, blaming others for mistakes, and denying things ever happened all fall below the line. Thinking below the line is a natural human reaction and defensive tactic when something goes wrong. Kids are very good at blaming others or making excuses. As adults, our first thought is often below the line when something goes wrong. Many of us will play the blame game to avoid accepting accountability. However, many people stay in the blame, excuse, and denial mode. BED behaviors lead to poor performance and execution, resulting in a culture of fear with no trust and strained relationships. Everyone behaves as if they are the victim. Ultimately, this creates a toxic environment of blame and excuses, affecting confidence and team morale.

In the long run, it is okay to think below the line, but we are better off behaving above the line.

Successful people and teams behave above the line. When acting above the line, we focus the team effort on pinpointing problems, identifying solutions, and taking ownership to ensure that the problem does not recur. The team is committed to taking actions that benefit the entire group. Employees mirror the behavior, values, and work ethic of their leaders. This is called “the shadow of the leader” and relates to leaders’ influence on their teams. For example, if you come in to work late every day, they will too. Thus, by demonstrating above-the-line behaviors, you encourage those around you to behave similarly. You will build trust, respect, and enduring relationships.

Let’s return to the CMMS example.

OAR actions

Ownership: “I am not giving my team the systems and tools they need to be successful. I am going to start looking for a suitable CMMS system”. Ownership involves a commitment to improving performance, making decisions, and leading the organization in a positive direction.

Accountability: “I will give my team the tools they need to be successful”. Accountability is critical because it encourages individuals to take ownership of their actions.

Responsibility: “Even though I am at full capacity, I will find the time to get this done”. Responsibility encourages individuals to take ownership of their actions and strive for success.

The most effective and productive teams engage in above-the-line behaviors. They face up and take responsibility for mistakes, put their energy into supporting each other, and look for solutions to ensure that problems don’t recur. Behaving above the line ensures ongoing solid relationships and creates a positive culture of continuous learning and improvement.

How can my team live above the line?

Here are some tips to help your team live above the line:

  • Present the OARBED concept to the team in a group setting.
  • Explain your new vision for the team in terms of how OARBED fits in.
  • Get commitment from the team for above-the-line behaviors in the future.
  • Role-play some negative interactions to see how individuals can take ownership, accountability, and responsibility to ensure the best possible outcome.
  • Place graphics of OARBED in common areas such as the canteen, repair shop, or parts store.
  • Ensure ongoing above-the-line behavior by assigning clear responsibilities to your team and holding them accountable.

Each individual must accept ownership, accountability, and responsibility for their assigned duties. When individuals are responsible for the quality of their work, they become more invested in the job and committed to the team.


OARBED is an essential concept in understanding organizational dynamics and can help explain why teams succeed or fail to meet goals. When energy is spent solving problems rather than defending positions, everyone wins. By understanding this concept and striving to behave above the line, individuals can take ownership of their actions, take responsibility for the results they produce, and strive to improve performance. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s okay to think below the line, but always strive to behave above the line. Encouraging your team to act above the line will help create an environment of positivity, collaboration, and trust. You will create a supportive culture that encourages personal growth and gets the best from the team.

This mindset applies to your personal life too. It’s easy to moan and complain about the government, the traffic, our health, or the weather. But that’s not how winners behave; blaming and complaining gets us nowhere. Winners go and do something about it.

Jeff O'Brien

Jeff O’Brien is co-founder of Zoidii—the maintenance solution that gives you real-time visibility of maintenance cycles, labor assignments, parts allocations, and maintenance costs. Jeff has managed over 600 CMMS implementation projects and written over 200 industry articles on leadership, manufacturing, maintenance, and operational excellence.

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