Run Chart

Skill level: Basic


A run chart is used to monitor the behavior of a variable over time for a process or system. Run charts graphically display cycles, trends, shifts, or non-random patterns in behavior over time. Run charts can help identify problems and the time when a problem occurred, or monitor progress when solutions are implemented.


  • Simple to create and maintain
  • Does not require in-depth statistical training to use
  • Displays data in a straightforward, easy to analyze manner

How to Use

  • Step 1.  Determine the purpose of the chart and the data to be monitored, collected, and analyzed. Select the time interval (minute, hour, day, month, etc.).
  • Step 2.  Collect the data that will be plotted.
  • Step 3.  Plot time on the horizontal axis (typically located at the bottom).
  • Step 4.  Label the vertical axis and plot the data collected in step 2 on the vertical axis (typically located on the left-hand-side).
  • Step 5.  Title the chart. Indicating which direction is better with an up or down arrow may be helpful.

Relevant Definitions

Not Applicable


A payment processing manager is checking a recently hired associate’s error rate for the month. Below is the number of errors that occurred in March.

The run chart indicates a pattern in the number of payment errors. Peaks in errors occurred on 3/7, 3/14, 3/21, and 3/28, all Mondays.

The manager further investigates the payments the new associate processed on Mondays. After identifying the root cause of the problem and initiating corrective action, her plan is to continue monitoring the error rate during the following month.


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