by Guest Blogger – Stephen Dickinson

At BRS, we are always focused on ensuring that our clients are gaining insights regarding current infrastructure industry challenges and opportunities.   Given this, we are delighted that Stephen Dickinson of Ansr. Dispute Resolution will be providing a series of blogs that work through how our clients can benefit from understanding mediation and dispute resolution and how it can benefit their projects and organisations.  You can find out more about mediation and Ansr. at

Since establishing Ansr. Dispute Resolution, it has surprised me how many people have asked, “So, what is mediation?”.  This surprise stems from a misplaced assumption on my part that most people have been exposed to mediation, or at least understand what it involves, simply because it has been a part of my professional life for the best part of twenty years.  I expect most of us fall into this trap, notwithstanding our profession or industry.  If you had used the terms Work Breakdown Structure or Critical Path Method (or even better, WBS and CPM) during a meeting with me five years ago, I would have been reaching for a glossary of Project Management Terms (in private, of course).

So, how to explain mediation in its simplest terms, and in a 500-word blog?  By using the “Five W’s”, that’s how.


Two or more parties in dispute engage a qualified consultant (the mediator) to guide them through a proven process (known as mediation) with a view to agreeing mutually acceptable terms.  There is no limit to the number of parties that can be involved. Parties do not need to be legally represented (although in some cases legal representation may be recommended). Independent and industry specific experts can be introduced to assist the mediator and the parties.


Mediation can be suitable to any form of dispute, across all industries and sectors, and in respect of any type of relationship.  Although mediation is commonly applied to disputes involving money, the process can also be used to restore personal and working relationships, including between individuals or groups.  The primary goal of any mediation is that the parties agree mutually acceptable and durable outcomes that are confirmed in writing and can be implemented without further debate.


Mediations can be held anywhere, with the venue or location chosen by the parties.  In certain cases, a particular venue or site may be the most suitable by reason of location, as a cost saving measure or to access relevant information or material available at that site.


Mediations can be held anytime, with the timing also chosen by the parties.  Some mediators will ask parties (or their advisors) to attend “pre-mediation sessions” to discuss preparation, identify any underlying issues and focus the parties on particular topics, all with a view to saving time and giving the parties the best opportunity to resolve their dispute at the mediation itself.  Mediations can be held over more than one session, although it should always remain the objective of the mediator and the parties that all issues be resolved as swiftly and cost effectively as possible.


Where to begin? By engaging in mediation, and in contrast to legal action, parties control venue, timing, length of process, costs and exchange of information whilst also nominating those that will be involved in the process, including the mediator.  Mediation also allows for confidential, flexible and durable outcomes, all of which are rarely seen in Court processes.  Although parties are not obliged to resolve their dispute at mediation, experience informs us that a majority of matters resolve at or shortly following mediation, or at a minimum sees aspects of disputes distilled, resolved or discarded entirely, thus saving time and money for the parties.

The application of mediation to the infrastructure industry is compelling, whether there be a dispute regarding quality of product or service, timing of delivery or costs towards the backend of a project, a breakdown in working relationships between key individuals, teams or stakeholders on critical matters during a project or a lack of alignment on critical commercial or operational matters generally.  Most major project and infrastructure contracts now include mediation and dispute resolution clauses, but rarely are they used effectively, if at all.  Where mediation often reduces costs, delays and interruption to projects, and can serve to re-establish working relationships, it is a tool that could prove valuable across all industries, and perhaps your next project.

In my next blog, I will take readers through the mediation process itself, from start to finish.