Local business duo is nation’s only Black certified Scrum trainers

Devon Morris  Lizzy Morris Scrum
Devon Morris Lizzy Morris Scrum

The Dallas Examiner

When it comes to helping businesses bring more efficiency to their workflow management processes, BeardedEagle Management and Consulting Firm – the only Black-owned firm certified by the Scrum Alliance – is said to be one of the best around. That’s largely due to co-founders Devon and Lizzy Morris, the charismatic, diligent and once-married but now divorced power-duo, who decided to put differences aside in order to build one of the premier Agile and Scrum consultancies in the world.

The partners built a multimillion-dollar firm in 12 years, and garnered a reputation for taking companies to the next level – helping them thrive, creatively providing some of the best Agile, Scrum, Lean and Six Sigma business solutions.

“BeardedEagle is a management consultancy practice for people who are wanting to see their organization change, whether it be from the top-down, from the middle-out or from the bottom-up. But they want to see their organization make a shift, and they are ready to do the work necessary for that shift to be made,” Lizzy said. “We are the company that is there to help them make it without coming in and making them feel like they’ve made huge mistakes.”

Personally and professionally helping companies get to the next level through the application of Agile methodology and Scrum is the name of the game for BeardedEagle, because businesses are only as strong as their management. Alongside growing as a company comes the need for operational consistency and efficiency that can scale too.

When it comes to project management, people often use the words “Agile” and “Scrum” – but what do they mean?

“Agile … is a collection of values and principles that you live and breathe, no different than the Ten Commandments or any other value that you have in your life. You incorporate them into your everyday actions and behaviors. There’s Agile, and then there’s Scrum,” Devon said. “Well, Scrum is something that we do, while Agile is something that we live and breathe. So Scrum lives and breathes the values and principles of the Agile manifesto.

“If I were to explain Scrum to anyone, I would say, ‘Just think about short cycles of getting things done that you want to achieve.’ All you do is start off with a plan, you work your plan and you get to the end. You learn about the product you built, you learn about the thing that you made, then you try to find a way to get better at the next go-round. … So there’s Agile, and then there’s Scrum, and we operate in both of those worlds.”

But what are the benefits of Agile and Scrum?

In a world where so many businesses become entrenched in their ways and reluctant to incite organizational change from within, there has to be a noticeable benefit for companies willing to adopt an entirely new project management methodology. There is, Lizzy said, although sometimes companies struggle to see it and aren’t willing to commit the time and effort to building the work atmosphere they desire.

But those willing to work for it will certainly reap the rewards. Part of this success is due to how understandable Agile methodology and Scrum are to anyone who has experienced the hindrances of project management in any space.

“One of the things that Scrum does is that it takes the frustrations that they’re well-aware of in regular project management and the things that they know don’t work. Scrum exposes those and simplifies the project management process and makes everything visible. So instead of a project manager now having to be honed down and creating needless Gantt charts and paperwork that means nothing, it allows them to equip their teams, who they trust, to actually get the work done. And the business is normally semi-involved – it lets them come take a seat at the table and actually drive it,” Lizzy said.

She went on to speak of how many of the project managers she has worked with – particularly the older, male ones – have given her a lot of positive feedback.

“What they loved was the empiricism that is embedded in Scrum – the fact that you are doing and learning and not pretending you’re supposed to know. So you no longer have to pretend to know exactly what the outcome’s gonna be before you actually start the work. You just need to know what the goal is that you’re trying to drive toward,” she continued.

The duo is dedicated to the methodology of Agile and believes that the applications are vast, going much further than just the traditional business uses as they are currently known. They have planned to launch two new programs this year: ScrumFit, aimed at helping people make the best of their fitness experience, and Scrum for Living to help schedule and manage everything else in life.

In spreading their message of improving efficiency in the workplace and beyond, the company has traveled across the globe. They’ve even done work within the music industry, with Lizzy having produced a Christian Christmas album in Atlanta using Agile methodology as its foundation.

“If you really boil it down to what this year is all about, you can put it in our theme for Dallas called ‘Inoculate Dallas.’ The idea is that we are trying to bring all styles, the things we know in terms of Scrum, and apply it in everyday living in the Dallas community,” Devon said. “So we moved our office to Dallas – we were in Grand Prairie. … I feel like we’ll have more of an impact on communities here by being located where we are now. When it comes down to that juvenile work that we’re going to start doing, we’ve already been doing work in schools, we’ve got educators that we work with.

“We’re just finding more ways to just touch, make ourselves more present and work with various people that are already doing great things in this community, and how can we partner with you to make this an even better world than what it is today. … We’re finding the ways to just bring it back to those basics of it takes a village to make this world a better place, and that’s what we’re actually doing here in Dallas.”

Both have shared a mutual love for the methodology since they first met in San Antonio in 2007, when Devon began working at USAA and became Lizzy’s Agile and Scrum coach. She fell in love with what he was doing, and the two bonded further over their motivations for what creating a business should be. They married but later divorced; however, they still wanted to make it work as a business couple.

“So even when we weren’t able to find a base point to still have a successful marriage, we have still built a fabulous base to have a successful business. And because our goals are still 100% the same, which is we’re going to make this a success because we want our children to have a legacy, and we want to have a standard we set here in the community, in America, so that other Black kids, other Black people period, know you can be in this world and be the equal to everybody else who’s out there, regardless of the color of their skin. Hold your ground and still be successful.”

By 2013, Devon became the first Black certified Scrum trainer, with Lizzy coming a few years later as the first Black female trainer. Of some 300 certified Scrum trainers worldwide, they remain the only two Black trainers.

“Now, I’m not in the position where mentally I have to prove anything, but I’m in the position where I want to succeed because I want young girls everywhere to know that they can be anything they want to be. So if they choose to be a stay-at-home mom, they can do that and they can do that brilliantly … without fear of judgment or feeling inferior,” Lizzy said. “And if they choose that they want to be on Wall Street or own the biggest company in the world, they can do that also – there’s nothing wrong with their brain, nothing wrong with them. They can really have it all if they choose it. One of the things I spend a lot of time doing is working with women’s groups and speaking at women’s functions because I want to inspire women to stretch as far as their dreams exist.”

For Devon, it’s about humility and honor for what he has achieved, and giving back to the community and setting an example.

“To me, it is an absolute honor and privilege to stand on the shoulders of my ancestors who were slaves. … I’ve had an amazing journey in terms of life, so everything that I do is trying to inspire others to do the same, because if I’ve done it, they can do it,” he said. “And I always take an opportunity to talk with kids, whether it’s in a school environment or sometime soon, we’ll be speaking to some people in juvenile detention. … These are things that I do and I don’t even tell anybody about because I want to make sure that I spark the brain; I plant the seed within someone that is going to do something great in the future. So it is always a part of what I’m trying to do. It is always the example that I’m trying to set.”

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