Protocols set out ideal-case responses to anticipated situations. They aim to guide and standardise an organisation's responses to the outside world.

Sometimes organisations can get very antsy when their people don't follow protocols to the letter.

Practise can vary from protocol, sometimes quite significantly. The real world, and human beings, are nothing if not unpredictable after all.

We can attempt to minimise variations as much as possible through standardisation of equipment, procedures and behaviours. But it is unrealistic to expect protocols to be executable exactly as written.

This doesn't mean protocols are useless. Writing a set of protocols is a useful journey because it forces us to really think situations through.

We also need to empower people with the understanding and attitude to respond to the outside world. They need to understand both the literal meaning and underlying intentions behind the protocols. So that they can effectively adapt them to suit particular situations.

Here's another way to think about this:

We often group people into broad demographic groups (stereotypes) to enable analysis and understanding.

On a day-to-day relationship level however, we almost always encounter individual differences that don't fit demographic categories.