I'm sure this has never happened to you:

A client or higher-up run into your office in a panic, "You have to help me". The tale usually involves some miscommunication or poor decision-making that went undetected until pretty much the last possible moment. And now there's this person freaking out all over your office (or inbox or phone). What the Hell are you supposed to do about it?

Well, you could just listen for a while. Let the person vent. Maybe that's all they need. Or maybe they'll find the solution while they're thrashing around like a crazy person. If you want to help, and it turns out the other person needs and wants it, your biggest contribution might be giving a little perspective. Here's how:

  1. Understand the project: What's the purpose (what you want people to think, feel, do) and the value to the customer? What is the format of the actual deliverable?
  2. Define the scope: What are all the parts of the project, and all the tasks required to complete them? Divide projects into the smallest logical chunks (like sections for a white paper) that could be assigned around a team or department. Identify dependencies (those pesky times when you can't do one thing without another being done first, etc.).
  3. Set priorities: To figure out what needs to be done first, evaluate the tasks based on value to the customer/purpose (highest value has a high priority) and/or the activity's impact on the whole project (often dependencies get hi pri).
  4. Assign tasks: Ask team members to volunteer for tasks and assign leftovers. Complete the work in priority order. It might also make sense to divide the team to handle specific tasks. I often form a team of writers to chug away on content creation while another team of researchers to track down data and other supporting information, all of which goes into a shared directory. (Helps to have some kind of tagging in place so writers and researchers can find what they need). Writers add to the research list whenever they encounter an issue. Daily meetings (in person or on Skype, Hangout, etc.) allow us to reprioritize based on scope, progress, etc.; identify obstacles and problems before they get out of hand; and ensure everyone's clear on what's happening.

There's more to the process, or course, but this 30,000-foot view is enough to help you be a hero.