The Spitzer Space Telescope is an 85-cm telescope with three cryogenically cooled instruments. Following launch, the observatory was initialized and commissioned for science operations during the in-orbit checkout (IOC) and science verification (SV) phases, carried out over a total of 98.3 days. The execution of the IOC/SV mission plan progressively established Spitzer capabilities taking into consideration thermal, cryogenic, optical, pointing, communications, and operational designs and constraints. The plan was carried out with high efficiency, making effective use of cryogen-limited flight time. One key component to the success of the plan was the pre-launch allocation of schedule reserve in the timeline of IOC/SV activities, and how it was used in flight both to cover activity redesign and growth due to continually improving spacecraft and instrument knowledge, and to recover from anomalies. This paper describes the adaptive system design and evolution, implementation, and lessons learned from IOC/SV operations.