The Best Pot Roast Recipe

If you are a fan of pot roast, then you might want to jot this recipe down.  It’s a classic!

First, get yourself a nice quality boneless beef chuck roast.  Next, cut the ends off each side of the roast.  Then, season it with salt and pepper and sear it in a roasting pan on the stove top.  Next, cook butter with garlic and vegetables and fresh herbs in a pan to make a gravy full of veggies, and pour over the roast to roast in the oven.  (Try this recipe for more details)

Or perhaps you’ve heard this recipe before?

The story goes that a young couple hosted some friends for dinner and made her mother’s recipe for pot roast.  The friends loved it and asked for the recipe.  She shared her recipe as stated above, starting with cutting the ends off.  Her friends asked her, “Why do you cut the ends off? I’ve never heard of that before”.

“I learned this recipe from my mother, and she always cuts the ends off, so that’s what I do,” she replied.

That night, she called her mother and asked, “Why do we cut off the ends of the pot roast before we sear it on the stove?”  And her mother replied, “That is how my mother, your grandma, always did it, and I learned how to do it from her.”

So, the next day the woman called up her grandmother to ask her how the recipe originated.

“It’s been a long time since I made that pot roast,” her grandmother replied.  “But I do remember that when your grandfather and I were first married, we only had one pot, and the roasts were typically bigger than my pot, so I cut the ends off to make it fit.”

Unnecessary constraints for today’s world, passed down through the generations, left off a nice chunk of the roast!

Recipe for a Rocket Booster

space shuttle

Stick with me, now.  I’m not recommending you eat a rocket booster.  Let’s just talk about how to make one, following this “recipe”.

We know what the end goal is – a rocket booster that will attach to a space shuttle to launch it into space.  But these rockets are huge!  How do they even make them and then get them to the launch pad.

Let’s take a step back.  To transport them, they need to be “shipped by train from the factory to the launch site.”  And it turns out that the train tracks they follow to through a tunnel in the mountains.  So, we have a constraint now – the rocket can’t be any bigger than the size of the tunnel that the train goes through.

Now why did that tunnel get built to the size it is – the size that is constraining our adventures in space?  It was built to accommodate the train and the tracks.

But how did the train tracks get set to their width?  The first trains were built in England to follow the ruts from carriages drawn by horses.  And those carriages were built to be two horses wide.

Which means that the rocket boosters for the space shuttle were constrained to be the size of two horse behinds.  Note: This “recipe” has not been 100% verified to be true – but it certainly makes sense. 

These two examples show how past constraints or situations can impact future decisions.  Now let’s take things one step further.

Policies and Procedures as Recipes

Have you ever worked someplace that had some crazy requirements, restrictions, or warnings?  Then there was probably a past constraint or situation that was addressed through a policy.

These can come in the form of warning labels (Coffee is hot! Knives are sharp! Don’t hold the blade part of a chainsaw!).

Or in the form of overly complex procedures perhaps based on the lowest common denominator of former employees or the need to address every possible situation. (Cue the half-day training session on how to fill out a travel expense form)

But often, how your business operates can be impacted by the same constraints we saw in our two recipes.

Perhaps there is a past constraint (pan is too small) that impacts how we operate at work, even though that constraint is no longer in place.  Or maybe your current product design is based on manufacturing constraints from 20+ years ago because that is what your staff is familiar with, or the equipment that was in use at the time.  Or something has changed and the way you’ve done it in the past just won’t work anymore.

How can you tell if you have a recipe at your workplace that that needs to be re-examined?

  • If you hear someone at your company say, “We never…” or “We always…”
  • If you are doing something new, so you don’t have a process – like hiring your first employee, your first remote employee, or an intern
  • If you have refused to put a process in place because it will make your company seem “too big”

Look for New Recipes

Sometimes a great recipe is worth repeating over and over, like the delicious pumpkin chiffon pie* recipe handed down multiple generations by my family.  It came from a “Wives of Congressmen” cookbook back when my great-grandfather (whom I’ve mentioned before in this blog) was a U.S. Representative.  And the “wife” who posted it was Mamie Eisenhower!

slice of pie

And sometimes a recipe is worth dropping, like my family’s traditional Christmas dinner beef-a-roni recipe**.  No one liked it.  How did it get started?  My grandmother wanted an easy dish that she could stick in the oven right before church on Christmas eve that would be ready for dinner when they got home.  Never mind that over the years the church timing changed, the meal continued.  It was tradition, even though no one liked it.  We finally changed the menu when I was in high school, but it was long overdue!

Do you have recipes at work that are worth keeping?  These are the processes that help with consistency and clarity with employees and customers.

And do you have recipes that are worth dropping?  These are the procedures that more in the way of getting things done than not.

When’s a good time to re-examine the recipes in your business? Consider these situations.

  • When you are approaching the end of a fiscal year and starting to look ahead at the new year
  • When the economy is changing, and you suspect it will have an impact on your business
  • When a new competitor enters your market
  • When you add a big new customer
  • When you have 15 minutes to spare at the end of the week to do some thinking
  • Now! laughing


*A reasonable facsimile of our recipe can be found here, except we use a real pie crust, not graham cracker.

**Nope, not sharing this one.


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