Culture of Protocols: A correct protocol will result in a correct product

Ben Boterkooper China Import Leads BV.Ben Boterkooper is the owner and founder of China Import Leads B.V. He writes and shares informative articles on a regular basis. These cover various subjects relevant to his buying agency in China, production and importing products from China. 


When you conduct business in China, you will quickly discover there is a protocol in place for virtually everything. In China, protocol is paramount. It tells employees what they can and cannot do and how to respond in certain situations. The protocol also always indicates the next step within a process. In short: a protocol forms a precise manual for all operations and activities. The protocols culture is interwoven into Chinese daily life and is therefore also fully reflected in business.

Drafting and implementing protocols

By adhering to a protocol one can be called a “follower”. A follower in this case is someone who thinks and works according to the protocol. When there is no protocol in place, in China one is often lost in how to perform. At this point, performance comes to a halt and creates a problem which then results in stagnation of the production process. However, the person who designed the protocol adopts an entrepreneurial work method and mindset. Thereby achieving results being the most significant end goal. The aim is to formulate the best possible working methods for achieving the best result. But the entrepreneurial mindset becomes redundant when the protocol is followed. In other words: someone who has always followed protocols does not possess the mindset to design one. So these are two different thinking patterns which do not work together well at all.

Chinese protocols and the Chinese product

A Chinese factory working according to protocols can have much clout and capacity for production. On the other hand it can limit the possibilities at the factory and it’s potential. Because nearly everyone in China has grown up in an environment where protocols are followed, one struggles to anticipate or have a plan B in place if a protocol is considered ineffective. Which means that if you wish to amend the sales contract or production process of your product, the factory will quickly struggle to accommodate as they are forced to deviate from the protocol. Deviation from a protocol implies that workers enter uncharted territory and this can be very risky for a factory. At least, this is considered to be risky, because one does not have prior knowledge of possible expense, processes and bottlenecks.

Risk of production errors by deviating from protocol

Chinese factories which deviate from protocol find themselves in new, unknown and inexperienced territory. As the followers have always worked according to a protocol, they have never learned the skills to develop a product by thinking and acting independently. The manufacturing of a product has always been presented them by means of a recipe. Should you wish to manufacture products in China at a time where there is no protocol, you will run the risk of production errors. And as many Chinese factories prioritise “selling” to “able to manufacture”, your order will be accepted but the actual manufacturing can ultimately end up a fiasco.

Supply the factory with “the recipe/the protocol”

If you wish to manufacture a product in China which is not yet or not yet fully produced according to a pre-existing protocol, it is important to discuss beforehand a “recipe” or protocol and implement it in the production contract. From these discussions, it will also show immediately if the factory is able and competent enough in manufacturing the product according to your expectations. Should doubts arise about the manufacturing skills and capabilities of the factory in question, it would be a justifiable conclusion that selecting this factory for the manufacturing of your products carries a high risk.