At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

– Agile Manifesto (

In case you weren’t aware, this is the 12th Principle of the Agile Manifesto and it is often translated into “inspect & adapt.” Of the 12 principles, this is definitely the one to which everyone can easily relate. The team should look at what they are doing, look at how they are doing, and adjust. This is primarily for the team, and I would argue that it’s mostly about the process (and maybe people stuff), but it could be around the product and/or project if we are doing this in respect to a specific release, or even the outcome of the sprint.

With Scrum, there is a ceremony (a.k.a. meeting) called a Retrospective. Other frameworks and processes have adopted the spirit of this meeting, and there are a bunch of creative ways to conduct the Retrospective. If they are kept fairly informal, transparent, and candid, then they can be hugely valuable — especially when they are actionable.

But this article is not about the Retrospective. Instead, it’s about the terms and maybe even the way we speak of the concept “inspect.”

inspect. v. To examine critically or carefully; especially, to search out problems or determine condition; to scrutinize.

If you’re development shop is worth its salt, then you are constantly inspecting. Let’s face it, the feedback loop with following iterative development, using continuous integration, employing automated testing, and on a cross-functional team is really tight. This means that we are constantly re-digesting information from our feedback loop — so inspection is constant.

I propose this… instead of “Inspect and Adapt,” shouldn’t we “Innovate and Adapt?” Now I cannot take credit for this change of terms. I was driving home one day from the office and I heard a post-season interview with the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach Mike Smith. He was talking about the fact that the team has reviewed all the tape from the year and now it’s time to innovate and adapt. He went on to say that seeing one’s issues and/or challenges is not enough; they have to find ways to beat the competition and be better — that requires innovation.

innovate. v. To alter; to change into something new.

So instead of simply looking and digesting, let’s imagine and innovate. Once we innovate, we adapt the new ideas to our team; we continue inspecting our feedback loops; and we continue our innovation.

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quick, and get on with improving your other innovations.

– Steve Jobs

Join the Discussion

    • Adrian@Tester

      You are right about “Inspect & Adapt” vs. “Innovate & Adapt”, but I consider that some inspection is also important, how are we going to know what went wrong and what needs to be innovated, or adapted?

      Also, depending on the importance of the project, or maybe because of a tight development time, you won’t go with the innovate approach, but rather you want to follow the safe path, that gave good results in the past, isn’t this so?

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