Everyone is always telling me that to be successful as a project manager you have to build good relationships with your project teams. I see it all over this forum and am told this by other PMs in my company. My problem is, I don't believe this is a real solution to many problems and I'm currently thinking this is just a BS default answer given when the real answer is "I don't know" or "I can't do anything about it".
Real world example - We have, from my perspective, a corporate culture issue where line managers are VERY protective of their teams and extremely hesitant to provide help with things outside the scope of their team's immediate job at a given moment. E-mailed requests go unanswered. In-person conversations often end with "I'll get you that by the end of the day" and the next day I'm in another conversation with the same person - "We were really busy. I'll get it to you tomorrow." and this can continue for months with escalations to their management giving me the exact same response ("They're busy. Tomorrow." and then tomorrow comes and goes with no result). As a PM, a lot of my job is getting these various teams to work together and it's just hell because they don't want to.
I ask my fellow PMs how to handle this and the answer I get is "You have to build a good relationship with them. They have to WANT to do things for you." Huh? That seems like BS to me. Aren't they getting paid to do stuff for the company? I'm just some dude that coordinates things. I'm not even really the one initiating the requests. Someone else asked me to get this information for them and they're going to hold me accountable for getting them that information. If they really are that busy, their line managers need to handle that. I'm running the project, not the individual teams and when you tell me "Person X is your guy" and then person X says they don't have time to do what I need, that's not a problem I can solve because I'm not their manager. However, I just keep getting told to build a better relationship with the teams. Honestly, I'm not even sure what that means I should do. It's not like I get invited out to lunch with these teams or hang out chatting in the halls. I don't even work on the same floor as most of them. Am I supposed to just randomly stop by all of their desks and try to strike up interesting conversations? I would hate if some PM stopped by to chit-chat with me while I was trying to work.
So is this a cop out? When is it ok to say "relationship building is not the problem here" and how do you get that across?