Something they don't tell you when you start on your own as a consultant: there are no rules to it - you make it up as you go and as you gain confidence. It's up to you how you want to do it. It's more art than science. I find it quite amazing.
There's no right or wrong way to consult, especially as an independent. Take, for example, the near cast-in-stone rule that diagnosis should precede strategy. Although true, I'm finding that I often do diagnosis and strategy almost at the same time as I interact with business owners and marketing directors. Since I only focus on small and midsized clients, I tend to work with organisations with flat structures where decision-makers still have front-end contact with the market. Information is often already in the room - it just needs to be sorted.
One could argue that this is taking shortcuts, but I've found delaying the strategy discussion "till next time" ignores the reality of the moment where a certain insight presents itself. It would be flimsy to press pause simply to first complete a comprehensive review - if the outcome is ripe, it should be harvested. It often leads to review-strategy-planning cycles that happen almost instantaneously. Maybe I should call these “micro loops”, and a complete strategy is then made up of many such micro-loops.
Rather than a review that moves into strategy and then planning, each at different, subsequent times, my strategies tend to be made up of many moments of clarity flounced together. They don't teach you this at consulting school!
Lately, I've started to embrace the art of consulting instead of obsessing over the method. I'm focusing more on embracing my style than “doing it right". The shift has relieved me of much performance anxiety, and made my job much more enjoyable.
Stop stressing how to consult - just do it!