Ghost CPM Schedules - Norman F. Jacobs, Jr., CSI Emeritus 2016

Bookmark and Share Print this page

Ghost CPM Schedules

Norman F. Jacobs, Jr., CSI Emeritus 2016


Project Managers use the approved CPM Schedule in the field office and use a Ghost schedule in the home office. When you have a delay on your project you may use your Ghost schedule to mitigate the delay by making a fragnet of the activities related to the delay.

When a contractor uses a Ghost Schedule, it is often though of by the contractor as their, as should have been submitted schedule. For example, when an Owner refuses to approve the contractor’s planned early completion CPM Schedule, or rejects the contractor’s time extensions request, either to an early completion schedule resulting from an excusable delay, a contractor may prepare a Ghost Schedule to status the project properly. Contractors may also use a Ghost Schedule to manage subcontractors and suppliers.

Ghost schedules have been used behind the scenes on construction projects for many years. Contractors could use their Ghost schedules to analyze and determine the proper potential impact of change orders and decision making before beginning their into actual delay discussion.


Why do we use Ghost Schedules? The implementation and potential pitfalls of the use of good Ghost schedules, the need and use for a Ghost schedule should be defined. The difference between a project schedule and a Ghost schedule must be clearly recognized.

A contract CPM schedule is the official project schedule approved by the Owner. A Ghost schedule is not the project schedule nor is it defined or recognized by the contract. Instead, it is set apart from the project schedule by the party employing it. Like the project schedule, it is updated regularly, analyzed, discussed, and revised as necessary by its user.

Every Project Manager must be aware of any liability and risk involved when using Ghost Schedules. Ask yourself is there are any legal question related to Ghost Schedules. There have only been a small number of case law dealing with the use of Ghost Schedules. A significant case concerning Ghost Schedules and their use is Jackson Construction, Inc. v United States. In this case, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims stated that a contractor is under no obligation to advise Owners of planned early completion.  - - - - - - - Jackson Construction Co., Inc. v The United States, 62 Fed. Cl. 84; 2004 U. S. Claims.

When the Project Managers are developing and utilizing the Ghost Schedule they must be aware of the adversarial relationships this may create on the project.

Let’s look at a project that utilized Ghost Schedules. Take for example a $300,000,000.00 Convention and Cultural Center which included a domed Convention Hall. The domed structure a poured in place concrete dome. The dome was supported by twenty four flying buttress that were formed, re-bared with poured in place concrete.  

The original project cost estimate showed the cost of one form system for the twenty four flying buttress. The original CPM Schedule for the project showed ten work days to complete each flying buttress. During the course of the project there were twenty compensable delays and sixteen strikes that delayed the project.

Examples of the use of Ghost Schedules in construction: 1. Construction of the flying buttress was on the critical path so it was time to study how to reduce the duration as related to resources. The decision was made to build a second form system for the flying buttress at a cost of $75,000.00. In theory this cost would save time and money by cutting the total duration of the twenty four flying buttress.       2. Ghost schedules were used to study the use of ten hour days in lieu of eight hour days. When you go to ten hour days you loose productivity by say fifteen percent therefore you must weigh the time saved verses  the extra cost.     3. A study of adding a night sift of resources was analyzed with the Ghost Schedule. In this study we discovered that the circadian rhythm of the work force may run into extra cost. Also you need to review what critical activities are concurrent.    4. Another example of the use of a Ghost Schedule is to expedite the critical work of sub-contractors.

The perspicacious Project Manager must be careful when using Ghost schedules and their risk. The contractor underlying problem of maintaining multiple schedules is, “Which one is your real schedule?”

The use of Ghost Schedules require detail documentation. The prudent Project Manager must know adequate project documentation because every construction project requires detailed documentation to keep comprehensive and contemporaneous records. Conscientious and orderly record-keeping not only provides the information to effectively and efficiently “manage” a project, it is also essential preparation for contract disputes, delays, impacts, and any litigation. Adequate documentation may also satisfy a requirement for a logical and supportable documentation of cause and effect. Remember, documentation last, but memories fade.

Using Ghost Schedules in handling delays with TIA. All astute Project Managers must be prepared to handle delays with assiduous planning. Unnecessary delays can mean lost time and money, and possible a trip to court. The Project Manager’s role in management of delay and schedules is a most detailed part of his or her responsibility in today’s world of construction. A must is to know the use of fragnets and Time Impact Analysis. Over the years construction methods have been characterized by low management technology; planning and scheduling techniques were most rudimentary and delays in performance of construction were taken in stride. All monthly CPM schedule updates must be critiqued as they relate to delays or impacts.

TIA and Ghost Schedules are used to analysis the status of projects. Network schedule techniques have great utility in evaluating delay and impacts on a project. Project Managers use the TIA techniques as simultaneous proof of both the fact and the cause of delays or impacts to projects.

Using Ghost Schedules and FSA to analysis the project schedule status. Forensic Schedule Analysis – Forensic research involves the application of scientific knowledge of legal matters. The sagacious Project Manager who uses “Forensic Schedule Analysis” refers to the study and investigation of events using CPM Schedule calculation methods for potential use in a legal proceeding. It is the study of how actual events or activities interacted in the content of a complex model for the purpose of understanding the significance if a specific deviation or series of deviations from some baseline model and their role in determining the sequence of activities within the complex CPM Schedule Network Diagram.