What is the Purpose of a Phantom Schedule?

Continuation of the article “… Phantom Schedule.”

A client or contractor may develop it individually with each one, believing that it is more reliable than the current official schedule and/or the existing baseline. 

Construction contractor can come up with a more aggressive version of the contractual schedule to create some form of relief time zones. It creates some form of time buffer zones by using earlier schedule plan dates. The sub-contractor then sign on a more optimistic schedule with the contractor.

The contractor hides the already optimistic phantom schedule for background update. At this point, and just on the contractor-subcontractor side alone, there are already four schedules at play and being maintained separately; i.e. 1) subcontract schedule, 2) subcontract phantom schedule, 3) contractor phantom schedule, and 4) contract schedule.

A recent technical article rightly stated the same thing, that one of the reasons why a phantom schedule is developed is “when the client no longer has any faith that the contractor’s contract schedule submittals are realistic (Beisler, S. & Zack, J., 2016.Cost Engineering. May\Jun 2016. p21).

Risks: Opportunities

The phantom schedule addresses the concerns of client and/or contractor that the contract forecast schedule (current) versus contract schedule (baseline) are no longer useful in making project decisions.

To each one, the phantom schedule represents their in-house assessment of the execution plan, strategy, sequencing, and time estimate they could live with.

It provides them the confidence that they now have a current schedule with a realistic forecast that fits squarely into their company objectives. They now have a schedule that makes sense and leads to good, sound, and effective decisions.

Note however, that this is an opportunity usually appreciated only by the sponsoring organization and not by all stakeholders (see threats). 

“A person’s perspective depends on which side of the fence they are sitting on. With that in mind, a risk can be a threat or an opportunity. Your business sees a threat and your competitor sees an opportunity. It is as simple as that.

Each individual player within the risk universe will see things a bit differently compared to the next person, with some people interpreting things in exactly the opposite fashion (Frago, R., 2015.Risk-based Management in the World of Threats and Opportunities.p3. ISBN 978-0-9947608-0-7 Canada)”

  • It is believed to help increase the probability of desired outcome from happening. It helps to make effective management decisions. It enhances consequence, providing a good handle of the future. It can assist in schedule enhancement such as acceleration, resource optimization, and just-in-time what-if analysis.
  • Managers believe it will help prevent/avoid, and mitigate risks. Good forecast provides a good handle of the threatening future. Presents an opportunity to act in advance of what will happen. It can assist in schedule analysis such as delay analysis, resource analysis/leveling, and time impact analysis.

Risks: Threats

Although more common than anyone thinks, it is not surprising how astonished the other party seems to learn that the schedule was being analyzed for months not using the current schedule.

Interpretation is in the mind and eyes of the beholder: “It is a document intending to highlight a brewing distrust and subterfuge of one contracting parties, easily viewed as an insult, if not a slap to the contractor or client’s intellect and integrity,” someone commented.

If one makes the mistake of openly using the phantom schedule as a contrast tool versus the contract schedule in any client-contractor update/progress meeting, the contention will start and might eventually gravitate to long standing debates, arguments, disputes, work stoppage, and ultimately, claims and litigation.

The aforementioned is a certainty unless resolved quickly by levelheaded leaders, perhaps through an acceptable realignment proceedings, a schedule re-baseline, or, though highly unlikely, acquiescence by one of the contending party.

Phantom Schedule can be a point of Contention

Warning: A phantom schedule can work against its proponents in the end if sponsors are not careful.

Ghost schedule removes time management focus from the officially approved contractual schedule. Complications start when this happen.

Client cannot effectively use the phantom schedule in officially discussing path forward with the contractor. It is not an acceptable driver to get the contractor going another way. After all, this schedule does not exist.

In view of this limitation, the strategy is to use the weight of the contract schedule. Analyze it using the gleaned driving information from the phantom schedule and identify the gaps in the contract schedule. Use questioning attitude to point flaws to the current contract schedule and request changes more attuned to what the phantom schedule prescribed.

This is the only viable and more acceptable way. Everyone still has to use the contract schedule as the working schedule in all matters of planning, forecast, and progress to avoid adversity and ill feelings.

Secrecy overtakes transparency and works against the concept of integration. This is a dark cloud. It grew from the seed of distrust so it is something that will work against good contractual relationship. An adversarial relationship looms on the horizon! 

“The use of integrated data helps the project to identify potential risk/s. The mere mention of integrated data underlines correlation; i.e. we have to associate correctly one datum to the next, or one set of information to the others, for them to be of value.

That can prove rather impossible when we have nothing to start with. Remember, it is a secret schedule!

How do one start working on something he does not know? The executing party can only begin to scratch the surface of knowledge once knowing starts (Frago, R., 2015.Risk-based Management in the World of Threats and Opportunities.p18. ISBN 978-0-9947608-0-7 Canada).”

Click the hyperlinked text below to continue to Article 3 : “Attributes of a Phantom Schedule.”



  1. Risk-based Management in the World of Threats and Opportunities: A Project Controls Perspective.
  2. Plan to Schedule, Schedule to Plan.ISBN 978-0-9947608-2-1.Canada
  3. How to Create a Good Quality P50 Risk-based Baseline Schedule.ISBN 978-0-9947608-1-4.Canada
  4. Schedule Quantitative Risk Analysis (Traditional Method).ISBN 978-0-9947608-3-8.Canada
  5. RISK, What are you? The Risk Management Poem: Children’s Book for all Professionals.ISBN 978-0-9947608-4-5 (Canada)

Come check our PMSP ProductsTraining, and Services!

We are always here to serve you

PM Solution Pro understand that each client requires some type of fit-for-purpose solution, a different approach tailored to achieve the objectives. We are here to help you successfully meet your goals. Buy our products, get in touch, send your query, or get a quote.

If you want more details of what we offer, call and e-mail us now at 1+ (587) 899-1202, [email protected]