I'm not certain how you think my statement excludes this. It is meant to read, "If I know everything the other person does, and he comes up with a plan that achieves victory where I could not, then I view that as brilliant."
There's a difference between sitting in a comfy chair having all the time in the World to make a prediction and doing so at a rush while in mortal peril. Furthermore, by that line of reasoning reenacting the Battle of Cannae (albeit on a smaller scale) would fail the brilliance test likely as not, regardless of the difficulty involved in doing so.
In general, I break down the mind into four parts -- Memory, Charisma, Intelligence, and Wit. The first two should be obvious. INtelligence and Wit won't be. Intelligence is the capacity to solve problems when not under time pressure. (Scientists use Intelligence.) Wit is the ability to solve problems when under time pressure. (Cops on the beat use Wit.) Understanding the difference in someone's capacity to deal with problems with and without time restrictions is often overlooked: people that are too focused on the perfect solution tend to have high Intelligence and lack understanding of the need for Wit. And those good at Wit have an inherent understanding that they will sometimes make the wrong decision, so often don't have the patience for the requirement for as near perfect a solution as possible required by Intelligence problems.
I know that I'm more than fair at Wit because of Paintball. I'm very good at identifying important terrain features, and how to use them, as well as developing the tactical plans to deal with a situation as it arises. I also know how to use Housellama's "deception" comment. For instance, we played at a field called "Hamburger Hill" First game we were on top of a fairly steep hill. As I looked around, I noticed something to the left. I grabbed my small group of friends (we were working together with other groups) and quietly said, "Carefully look at the tree on the left. Did you notice that it is in bounds and at higher elevation than our base?" There was a bit of an optical illusion to it since there was a depression between base and tree, but once pointed out, they all said, "Wow, no!" So, I announced that our group would hold the left, and the other people cover middle and right. And told my guys, "Stay off that hill. Defend from below, so we don't let the enemy know about it." And that's what we did. We barely held, and our right flank won to grab the flag, but our enemy didn't see us use that tree.
Switch to the bottom. I announced, "We know this side, so we'll take it again. You guys hold the left." And said to my guys, "Okay, the goal is to get someone to that tree. Put someone up there and we can suppress that base camp. If they haven't noticed it, we need to take it hard and fast. But I run like a cow. Who has the strength to make it?" My friend Jason offered. And wow, he made it. We were able to suppress anyone from getting to the positions that we had defended from because we only went up a short way and flooded the area with paint to keep the enemy from shooting at Jason, and Jason just raced to that tree (which I didn't exactly foresee, but hey, he called that one right), and poured balls down on the base, which was at that point defended by only two guys behind one extremely well placed barricade. We turned that into a win, which involved me running out of paint and gas, and suicide charging the bunker for two surrenders. I later went to that tree and checked out Jason's position, and man, it was even better than I thought. He couldn't hit behind that bunker, but he knew there was no one else up there that could help them, since there wasn't any more cover at all. Solid 24" trunk for a ton of protection.
The important part there is that only one person identified that tree for what it was, and not only used it to win, but prevented the enemy from using it to win. I don't fear time pressure. I know I respond well to it.
Sigh. You guys know that no plan survives contact with the enemy, right?
Holy triteness, Batman!
Sorry, can't agree. I've laid out plenty of plans that have worked perfectly. In a suitably complex situation, the accuracy of the plan decreases, but even though the enemy may not react precisely as predicted, your plan may still work against theirs. Remember that their plan probably didn't survive contact, either, so they're just as bad off as you are: your plan has failed, their plan has failed, but you don't assume your plan failed worse just because yours failed. Choosing a plan that can handle as many possible enemy deployments as possible increases the chance of success without modification. A general that micromanages the troops based on post-contact info, which can be unreliable, is just begging for friendly fire losses. Once engaged, the general should be sitting back and listening to his local commanders tactical reports of how they deal with their issues, and worry about getting them the support they need.
An excellent case in point is the Canadian attack on Vimy Ridge in WW1. It was one of the few assaults that actually achieved its objectives, and the terrain held against counterattack. The Canadians made certain the artie had taken out the barbed wire by sending out scouts, had used a small scale reproduction of the region to ensure everyone knew how to recognize where they were and how to get to their objectives, and demonstrated that a rolling barrage was a viable tactic. Losses were even within 5% of predictions.
The Roman attack on Carthage was another prime example of successful planning. The Carthaginians did as they always had done in the past, and the Romans made them pay for their lack of creativity by having plans for everything they did. They closed the box and slaughtered the Carthaginian army totally. This worked mostly because the Carthaginians relied too heavily on their elephants which had disrupted every major army it faced. The Romans defeated the elephants by opening ranks to let them race through, closed ranks afterwards, and the Carthaginians had no real plan after that. Romans still had to close the box, but that went according to plan.
And an example of my own? Let's talk WoW. There was a place called Ogre Maul (way back before the first expansion... weren't even Battlegrounds at the time). Just outside this three-part dungeon, there was a Player vs Player arena, where everyone could fight everyone else. A few times per day, a monster would spawn in this arena. The loot wasn't powerful, but it was interesting. So 3/5 of us arrive and we see another group has already started fighting the monster, and it's down to 60% health remaining. Our 4th was 1 minute behind. We waited for him since I didn't think they could kill the monster in that time frame. I told them we'd attack within seconds of his arrival, so get prepped for PvP. I started buffing them (I was a Shadow Priest) and in between casting, I instructed our party to fight, in order: Mage, Priest, Rogue, Ranger, and Warrior last. Mage first because he could kill me fast, but could be killed before their Priest could react with a powerful heal if we ganged up on him. Priest second because the others had enough HP they wouldn't die fast, and the Priest could heal them: we wanted this done fast and dirty, not slow and drawn out. Rogue third because he might gank our Caster. (Most would think that I might worry about the Rogue killing me, but no... no Rogue had ever killed me from the front. I would wreck him one on one: I fought the best PvP'ers in the Horde and had no worries about some inexperienced rookie.) At this point, our Warrior would start hitting the monster. This would ensure the monster fought him when the enemy Warrior died, instead of turning on me (if I had to heal),or one of the others at random. The Ranger was next for our three remaining combatants, because I wanted their Warrior to keep taking the damage from the monster. And last, we waited for the monster to hurt their warrior a little longer. He couldn't disengage the monster to defend his allies and couldn't give it his back, so he was not going to be fighting in PvP. And since we'd be fighting a mostly dead monster once we took over, we could go full nuclear and drop it fast, even if the Warrior lost control of it. It took me longer to type the orders than it took to settle on that order: I didn't have to explain why. I just took charge and they obeyed the Voice of Command. I would drop in three seconds after everyone else, in case they had a counter-plan that had me as their first target (which would be a more common choice... my choice of "Mage first" would be considered counter to popular opinion that killed "healers first", but my group knew me well enough to know I had reasons, and there was no time to argue). Our 4th arrived, we got to the closest drop down point, and I changed one order. The Warrior wouldn't try to get to the Mage on the far side: engage the Priest who was much closer.
Perfect execution. We dropped down, and the Mage got alpha striked so hard and fast that he died almost instantly. Now we were 4 on 4, but their Warrior was engaged, so 4 on 3. The Priest lasted 12 seconds. Warrior engaged monster, so 3 on 2. Their Ranger got a couple arrows into my shielding, but he couldn't drop me in the best of times alone. I didn't even wind up fighting the Rogue at all... I was watching their Warrior for signs he was trying to lose the monster or fight our Warrior, and watching our HP because I was expecting damage on someone at that point. They told me after that the Rogue never stopped fighting the monster, which meant I was looking for him in the wrong place. 3 on 1. Their Ranger had trouble getting his pet off the monster and onto me, but I had Fear ready if that had been necessary, but I didn't want the monster hit with it, so I was glad that wasn't necessary. Their Warrior died alone and still on the monster. Elapsed time couldn't have been 30 seconds. The monster had 40% left, and we had only 4, but that was fine with that group. Loot was useless, though. I forget exactly what our own group was made of.
According to a very pissed off Ranger that had unkind words for me, they saw us when we arrived, but they didn't realize we were considering stealing the fight. They thought we'd wait politely until they won or lost since we were on the same Side, and didn't make a plan against us. The rogue didn't fight because his back was to us and he didn't see us drop in, and the others couldn't alert him before they died, so he thought the Mage fought too hard and was killed by the monster, who then turned on the Priest (he could see the monster hadn't moved an inch.. it would be closer to the truth to say he had tunnel vision or wasn't paying attention). I had already defended this monster once before, so I always had a plan in place for any interference before we engaged. Casters were told to never drop below 50% mana, and Rangers and Warlocks told to let their pets stick to the monster, and worry about themselves first. Oh, and watch the edge, not the fight: scout for enemies, since most didn't need to watch the actual combat. I always enjoyed the challenge of that Arena monster fight, but it was a rare spawn. Only faced it a few times. The two times I defended it, the enemy had no coordination and were just trying to slow us down until a larger group could arrive.
Point is: plans can and do survive contact with the enemy. Usually, there's some surprise involved so the enemy doesn't have a specific plan.
In general, you're right: you need to expect some aspects of your plan to fail, and be prepared to adapt to that. But adapt doesn't mean abandoning the plan and issuing a ton of new orders. You won't necessarily lose because of a failure in the plan, but you can lose by confusing your own men with inconsistent instructions. You'll save lives by carefully changing only critical failures, and letting the troops handle the minor failures as best they can.