Knowledge Management - Creating a Sustainable Yellow Pages System

How can I"know who knows" None of us can personally know more than around 250 people, yet we want our businesses to be smart, learning organisations where it's easy to locate the ideal person to speak to. This is why many organisations create"yellow pages" applications, which enable employees to find and contact other staff with specific expertise and techniques. However, these systems can be fraught with difficulty in their implementation, and frequently end up as out-of-date, glorified intranet telephone directories. This article, drawn from a bestselling knowledge management fieldbook by its author, identifies ten important steps involved in creating and sustaining an effective, employee-owned yellow pages system.

The guidelines below will be drawn from the book"Learning to Fly - Practical knowledge management from leading and learning organisations" (Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell), also sets out ten important steps to creating a yellow pages systems which really works, and has the favorable buy-in of its user community - that is to sayits customers.

1 Maintain a clean and distinctive vision. Be clear about what it is you're attempting to achieve and prevent compromise. Beware of becoming"all things to all men" - especially those from the HR and IT departments! Everybody will want a slice of the action - don't get rid of sight of the overarching aim of your system - which makes it simple to find people that you don't already know.

2 Strive for individual ownership and upkeep. Create a procedure whereby only the individuals concerned can make and update their entries. This will drive a much deeper sense of ownership throughout the population.

3 Strike a balance between casual and formal content. Invite individuals to share non-work information about themselves in addition to valuable business information. Consider prompting for this with"fun" questions such as:"what was the first single that you bought?" , "what is your favourite film?" .

4 Support the photos wherever possible. There's nothing more powerful and personal than a photograph. It speaks volumes about the person, raises the interest levels of others also generates personal ownership of the content. If possible invite individuals to include an informal photograph. The security-pass-rabbit-in-the-headlights shots rarely show people in their own best light! Better to have a picture which says more about the person and what motivates them.

5 Ensure that your product design is inclusive and flexible. Realize that different folks relate to templates, pushes and construction in different ways. Use focus groups to test opinion.

6 Start using a customer-facing pilot. Critical mass is important, so begin with a group of individuals that have a natural need to be observable to internal customers. This might include things like encouraging purposes, existing communities or networks, or even business areas with new leadership.

7 Deliver through local fans. Centrally-driven push isn?t always the perfect way to engage the workforce. Tap into local fans and winners if possible? They'll understand how best to"sell" the concept locally.

8 Use success stories as an advertising tool. Reinforce the viability of this knowledge directory at each opportunity. Publicize any examples or successes widely, and ancient, to reinforce your undertaking.

9 Encourage use, but lead by example rather than edict. Avoid mandating the population and use of this knowledge directory. People will provide much better quality content if they feel that they are volunteering the information. In the end of the day, you can?t actually conscript understanding - you can only ever exude it.

And let?s face it, there's little point in finding the one person with experience or experience that you require, when you call them on the phone, they are unwilling to speak!

10 Embed into individuals processes. Look for process and intranet"hooks" that may initiate and maintain the use of your knowledge directory (e.g. recruitment or induction of new employees, the launch of new networks, any reference on an intranet site which mentions a individual's name can become associate with their personal page.