Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Communities of Practice at Air Products and Chemicals Corporation

My next stop after Ernst& Young was Air Products and Chemicals in Allentown, PA. Brrrrr... boy it was cold. I almost lost my fingers that night. That's because I am after all a summer baby, having lived in Mumbai India and then warm Houston, Texas all my life I had no gloves with me. So of course when I had to walk outside for 10 minutes trying to find and then drive the rental car around town I sat warming my poor blue hands for at least 20 minutes before I could do anything. So much for that.
Air Products and Chemicals (APCI) is an interesting organization. They have been APQC members and study participants for a long time. Air Products is one of the largest industrial gas producers, supplying a broad range of industrial gases, mainly oxygen, nitrogen, argon, hydrogen, and helium. These gases are used in most industries, including food and metal processing, semiconductor manufacturing, healthcare, aerospace and chemical production.
Communities of Practice are the primary approach for knowledge sharing at APCI. They have an interesting model of Communities of Interest, Communities of Practice and Centers of Excellence. Each level of community addresses a particular need within the organization. This is based on their realization that even in communities one size does not necessarily fit all so they created three buckets to fit the needs of their organizations. Their advice to us was the same. Understand your organization, its culture and the needs of your employees and then design the best KM solution to suit their needs. APCI presents at some of our conferences so keep an eye out, they are worth listening to.

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