SRE Cultural Values

Bill Johnson
3 min readMay 28, 2021


Store window with the hashtag “be curious” on the window
Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

Recently in our Site Reliability Engineering organization in Azure, we established a set of cultural values that we hold ourselves and each other accountable to. Admittedly, these are aspirational in some ways but they are repeated and reinforced at all hands meetings, used as a frame in 1:1 meetings with managers and direct reports, and explicitly screened for during the interview process. It was a great exercise coming up with them that involved looking at well-functioning past and peer teams and borrowing where appropriate to foster the type of environment and culture we want to provide our own engineers. Microsoft has a good set of cultural values already with the focus on Trust and Growth Mindset so these are meant to be supplemental to the company-wide values. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and being explicit and direct about our values brings clarity to each individual on how they can apply and extend it in their own actions every day.

We came up with a set of 4 cultural values for our Reliability organization:

We Are Intentional

We define goals and take intentional actions to achieve them. We bring order to chaos. We create hypotheses based on data and create specific tests to validate and iterate on those assumptions. We define expectations and measure our progress toward goals. We take deliberate steps to understand why things fail and the mitigating factors behind them. We make iterative improvements and changes that increase reliability.

We Are Kind

We look for the best in others as well as ourselves. We give others the benefit of the doubt and respect their experiences. We encourage and look for the positive in people, situations, and crises.

We Are Brave

We are bold in our ambitions and take calculated risks when necessary. We have the courage to make difficult decisions and the confidence to deliver through ambiguity and vulnerability. We speak up and act when our values are at stake and expect the same of our co-workers. We ask tough questions and have uncomfortable conversations to get to the right decision that aligns to our cultural values and supports our peers.

We Are Infinitely Curious

We ask why and seek to understand before forming opinions. We don’t stop at the first issue and drive to uncover underlying causes and systemic factors that contributed. We seek out additional perspectives to better inform our own. We generate energy in others through engagement and uncovering novel information and approaches.

Through these 4 values, we are building an open and inclusive organization that allows each person to be their best, and true, self at work. Culture is a living thing that is always shifting so we are evaluating and making changes within these principles. I hope you find them useful and if you feel the urge to join in, check out our open Azure Reliability roles at



Bill Johnson

Principal Engineering Manager for Azure by day, run coach for @teamchallengenw by night