Knowledge Management – How to Create a Sustainable Yellow Pages System

How can I “know someone who knows”? While we can’t know 250 people at once, we want our companies smart and learning, where it is easy to find the right person to speak to. Organizations have developed “yellow-page” apps that enable employees to connect with other employees who have the same skills or expertise. These systems are often difficult to implement and end up looking like glorified intranet phone directories. This article is based on a bestseller knowledge management fieldbook. It identifies ten essential steps to creating and maintaining a successful employee-owned yellow page system.

These guidelines are based on the book Learning to Fly – Practical Knowledge Management from Leading and Learning Organisations” (Chris Collison & Geoff Parcell). It outlines ten key steps to create a yellow page system that works and gets the support of its users – that is, its customers.

1 Keep a clear and distinct visionKeep your objectives clear and avoid compromise. Do not try to be all things for all men, especially those working in HR or IT. Everyone wants a piece of it, but remember the ultimate goal of your system – to make it easy to find the right people. don’tAlready know.

2 Strive for personal ownership.Establish a process that allows only the people involved to create and modify their entries. This will foster a greater sense of ownership in the community.

3 Strike a balance in informal and formal contentEncourage employees to share information that is not related to work, as well as valuable business information. This can be done by asking “fun questions” such as “What was the first song you purchased?”What is your favourite movie?Or even “What makes your heart happy?””.

4. Support the photos wherever possible.Photographs are more personal and powerful than words. A photograph speaks volumes about the individual, inspires others, and gives the author ownership over the content. Encourage people to include an informal photo if they can. The security-pass-rabbit-in-the-headlights shots rarely show people in their best light! It is better to get a photograph that tells more about the person and their motivations.

5 Make sure your product design is inclusive.Recognize the fact that people respond to templates, prompts, and structure in different ways. Focus groups can be used to gauge opinion.

6 Begin with a customer-facing pilot.It is important to have critical mass. Therefore, start with people who are naturally visible to customers. This could be supporting functions, existing communities or networks, or business areas that have new leadership.

7 Deliver via local enthusiastsEngaging the workforce is not always possible through a centrally-driven push. If possible, reach out to local champions and enthusiasts. They will be able to help you “sell” your idea locally.

8 Use success stories to market your business.Every opportunity to reinforce the utility of the knowledge directory. You can promote any success stories and examples to strengthen your project. This is a project that promotes culture change.

Encourage usage, but lead by example and not edict.Avoid mandating the usage of the knowledge directory or the population. If people feel they are sharing the information, they will be more likely to provide quality content. It is impossible to conscript knowledge. You can only volunteer it.

Let’s face it, finding that one person who has the expertise and experience you need is not a good idea. If they aren’t available to speak on the phone, then there is no point!

10 Embed people processes.Find process and intranet hooks that can initiate and sustain the use your knowledge directory (e.g. You can link to the personal pages of people by referring to them on intranet sites.


Marketing a yellowpages system within an organisation can be a very rewarding task. Grab it with both your hands. A network of champions, cooperation from the IT and HR functions as well as tenacity, marketing flair, and tenacity are all necessary. These steps should be helpful to you. Bon voyage!

We are a team of professionals with each having two decades of experience in start-ups, sales, marketing, finance, HR, large scale project and profit centre management and running mature cross functional operations. At we are big believers that knowledge transfer is critical to our industry’s evolution. We love to share our experiences and learnings through our online resources.

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